Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) sequelae (or long COVID) has become a clinically significant concern. Several studies have reported the relationship between heart rate variability (HRV) parameters and COVID-19. This review investigates the long-term association between COVID-19 and HRV parameters. Four electronic databases were searched up to 29 July 2022. We included observational studies comparing HRV parameters (measurement durations: 1 min or more) in participants with and without a history of COVID-19. We used assessment tools developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute group to evaluate the methodological quality of included studies. Eleven cross-sectional studies compared HRV parameters in individuals who recovered from acute COVID-19 infection to controls (n = 2197). Most studies reported standard deviation of normal-to-normal intervals (SDNN) and root mean square of the successive differences. The methodological quality of the included studies was not optimal. The included studies generally found decreased SDNN and parasympathetic activity in post-COVID-19 individuals. Compared to controls, decreases in SDNN were observed in individuals who recovered from COVID-19 or had long COVID. Most of the included studies emphasized parasympathetic inhibition in post-COVID-19 conditions. Due to the methodological limitations of measuring HRV parameters, the findings should be further validated by robust prospective longitudinal studies.
Keywords: COVID-19; HRV; SARS-CoV-2; SDNN; long COVID; post-acute COVID-19 syndrome.