Heart rate variability comparison between young males after 4-6 weeks from the end of SARS-CoV-2 infection and controls

Sci Rep. 2022 May 25;12(1):8832. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-12844-8.


Due to the prolonged inflammatory process induced by infection of the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), indices of autonomic nervous system dysfunction may persist long after viral shedding. Previous studies showed significant changes in HRV parameters in severe (including fatal) infection of SARS-CoV-2. However, few studies have comprehensively examined HRV in individuals who previously presented as asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cases of COVID-19. In this study, we examined HRV in asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic individuals 5-7 weeks following positive confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Sixty-five ECG Holter recordings from young (mean age 22.6 ± 3.4 years), physically fit male subjects 4-6 weeks after the second negative test (considered to be the start of recovery) and twenty-six control male subjects (mean age 23.2 ± 2.9 years) were considered in the study. Night-time RR time series were extracted from ECG signals. Selected linear as well as nonlinear HRV parameters were calculated. We found significant differences in Porta's symbolic analysis parameters V0 and V2 (p < 0.001), α2 (p < 0.001), very low-frequency component (VLF; p = 0.022) and respiratory peak (from the PRSA method; p = 0.012). These differences may be caused by the changes of activity of the parasympathetic autonomic nervous system as well as by the coupling of respiratory rhythm with heart rate due to an increase in pulmonary arterial vascular resistance. The results suggest that the differences with the control group in the HRV parameters, that reflect the functional state of the autonomic nervous system, are measurable after a few weeks from the beginning of the recovery even in the post-COVID group-a young and physically active population. We indicate HRV sensitive markers which may be used in long-term monitoring of patients after recovery.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology
  • COVID-19*
  • Electrocardiography, Ambulatory
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Young Adult