Non-invasive electrocardiographic assessments of cardiac autonomic modulation in individuals with spinal cord injury
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STUDY DESIGN: Review. OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this review is to discuss the utility of linear and non-linear heart rate variability (HRV) as well as the QT-variability index (QTVI) as indices of cardiac autonomic control in individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI). SETTING: Brock University, Department of Kinesiology, St Catharines, Ontario, Canada. Brock-Niagara Centre for Health and Well-being, St Catharines, Ontario, Canada. METHODS: Literature review. CONCLUSION: Non-invasive markers determined from the electrocardiogram, such as linear and non-linear HRV, and, more recently, the QTVI have all shown some promise as indices of cardiac autonomic regulation in the SCI population. However, there are inconsistencies in the literature that call to question their true validity in this regard. Studies using pharmacological blockade, sympathetic manoeuvres and exercise suggest that both linear and non-linear HRV reflect cardiac parasympathetic activity, whereas their ability to quantify cardiac sympathetic outflow remains uncertain. The QTVI, although a novel method, correlates with both limbs of the autonomic nervous system and therefore may hold value as a measure of both cardiac sympathetic and parasympathetic activity in individuals with SCI; however, more research is required to confirm its utility.
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