Continuous positive airway pressure increases heart rate variability in congestive heart failure

J Am Coll Cardiol. 1995 Mar 1;25(3):672-9. doi: 10.1016/0735-1097(94)00427-R.


Objectives: Our objective was to determine whether continuous positive airway pressure augments the low heart rate variability of congestive heart failure, a marker of poor prognosis.

Background: Nasal continuous positive airway pressure improves ventricular function in selected patients with heart failure.

Methods: In 21 sessions in 16 men (mean [+/- SE] age 56 +/- 2 years) with New York Heart Association functional class II to IV heart failure, we assessed the effects of 45 min with (n = 14) and without (as a time control, n = 7) nasal continuous positive airway pressure (10 cm of water) on heart rate variability and end-expiratory lung volume. Coarse-graining spectral analysis was used to derive total spectral power (PT), its nonharmonic component (fractal power [PF]) and the low (0.0 to 0.15 Hz [PL]) and high (0.15 to 0.50 Hz [PH]) frequency components of harmonic power. Standard deviation of the RR interval, high frequency power and the PH/PT ratio were used to estimate parasympathetic activity in the time and frequency domains, and the PL/PH ratio was used to estimate cardiac sympathetic activity in the frequency domain.

Results: Use of continuous positive airway pressure increased end-expiratory lung volume by 445 +/- 82 ml (p < 0.01) and both time (p < 0.006) and frequency domain indexes of heart rate variability: Total spectral power (p < 0.01), nonharmonic power (p < 0.023) and low (p < 0.04) and high (p < 0.05) frequency components of harmonic power all increased. Time alone had no effect on these variables. By comparison, the PH/PT ratio increased during nasal continuous positive airway pressure (p < 0.004), whereas the PL/PH ratio was unchanged. Breathing rate remained constant in both groups.

Conclusions: Short-term application of nasal continuous positive airway pressure increases heart rate variability and time and frequency domain indexes of parasympathetic activity without influencing cardiac sympathetic activity. This increase may occur reflexively, through stimulation of pulmonary mechanoreceptor afferents.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology*
  • Heart Failure / therapy
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration*