We examined the different characteristics of heart rate variability (HRV) to define the time course of HRV profile after coronary artery surgery (CAS). Spectral analysis of HRV was performed on a 512-s segment of R-R intervals of the electrocardiogram on the preoperative day and on Postoperative Days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 14, 21, and 28. Power spectral area was divided into low (0.04-0.15 Hz; LF)- and high (0.15-0.5 Hz; HF)-frequency components. Fractal slope and sympathovagal slope of 1/f characteristics of HRV were determined in two different frequency ranges (from 0.01 to 0.15 Hz and from 0.01 to 0.5 Hz, respectively). Three recovery profiles of HRV were identified. Early HRV recovery profiles (Postoperative Days 1-6) included reduction in LF, HF, and sympathovagal slope, as well as an increase in fractal slope. Subsequent HRV recovery profiles (Postoperative Days 7-21) revealed reductions in LF, HF, and sympathovagal slope. Fractal slope became normal. Later HRV recovery profiles (Postoperative Day 28) demonstrated that all spectral components of HRV remained reduced, but sympathovagal and fractal slopes became normal. These changes in the HRV profile after CAS suggest significant postoperative alterations in cardiovascular homeostasis with significant but incomplete recovery during the first 28 postoperative days.
Implications: Heart rate variability reflects normal neural regulation of cardiac function. This variability remains depressed as long as 28 days after coronary artery bypass surgery, but can recover as early as 1 wk postoperatively. Despite implied loss of normal neural regulation of cardiac function, a specific correlation between depressed heart rate variability and outcomes was not performed.