Early neonatal heart rate variability patterns in different subtypes of perinatal hypoxic-ischemic brain injury
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BACKGROUND: This study aims to compare the longitudinal changes in heart rate variability (HRV) during therapeutic hypothermia in neonates with different subtypes of hypoxic-ischemic brain injury. METHODS: HRV was computed from 1 hour time-epochs q6 hours for the first 48 hours. Primary outcome was brain-injury pattern on MRI at 4(3-5) days. We fitted linear mixed-effect regression models with HRV metric, brain injury subtype and postnatal age. RESULTS: Among 89 term neonates, 40 neonates had abnormal brain MRI (focal infarct 15 (38%), basal-ganglia predominant 8 (20%), watershed-predominant 5 (13%), and mixed pattern 12 (30%)). There was no significant difference in the HRV metrics between neonates with normal MRI, focal infarcts and basal ganglia pattern. At any given postnatal age, the degree of HRV suppression (HRV measure in the brain-injury subtype group/HRV measure in Normal MRI group) was significant in neonates with watershed pattern (SDNN(0.63, p = 0.08), RMSSD(0.74, p = 0.04)) and mixed pattern injury (SDNN (0.64, p < 0.001), RMSSD (0.75, p = 0.02)). HRV suppression was most profound at the postnatal age of 24-30 h in all brain injury subtypes. CONCLUSION: Neonates with underlying watershed injury with or without basal-ganglia injury demonstrates significant HRV suppression during first 48 hour of hypothermia therapy. IMPACT: Our study suggests that suppression of heart rate variability in neonates during therapeutic hypothermia varies according to the pattern of underlying hypoxic-ischemic brain injury. Neonates with watershed predominant pattern and mixed pattern of brain injury have the most severe suppression of heart rate variability measures. Heart rate variability monitoring may provide early insights into the pattern of hypoxic-ischemic brain injury in neonates undergoing therapeutic hypothermia earlier than routine clinical MRI.