Cardiovascular autonomic function testing in asymptomatic T. cruzi carriers: a sensitive method to identify subclinical Chagas' disease
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BACKGROUND: Although impaired cardio-vagal response characterizes full-blown Chagas' disease, this feature among otherwise healthy T. cruzi serology carriers (SERO[+]) requires confirmation. The purpose of this study was to determine whether abnormal cardio-vagal responses were different among SERO[+] subjects with varying ECG alterations. METHODS: We assessed cardio-vagal reflex response in 57 randomly selected healthy blood donors (36 SERO[+], 15 with ECG rhythm/conduction abnormalities). The following cardiac autonomic tests were performed: (1) short-term heart rate variability (HRV), (2) Deep breathing test (DBT), (3) cold face test, (4) cold pressor test (CPT), (5) Valsalva maneuver, and (6) baroreflex sensitivity after administration of nitroprusside (BRS-NTP) and phenylephrine (BRS-PNP). RESULTS: Overall, SERO[+] subjects had 161/324 (49.7%) abnormal responses, compared to 41/189 (21.7%) in SERO[-] (p<0.001). Similar rates were found in SERO[+] according to ECG status (68/135, 50.4% in ECG[+] and 93/189, 49.2% in ECG[-], p=0.836). Covariate-adjusted pooled odd ratios (95%CI) for abnormal responses compared to SERO[-] were: 2.73 (1.71-4.35) for SERO[+], and 2.63 (1.63-4.34) for SERO[+]/ECG[-] (p<0.001). BRS-NTP, CPT and DBT individually showed significant differences between SERO[-] and SERO[+] groups. Conversely, ECG changes among SERO[+] were not associated with a significant excess of autonomic abnormality either overall (OR=1.09, 95%CI: 0.67-1.78, p=0.719) or by any individual test. CONCLUSIONS: Early cardio-vagal dysfunction was documented in SERO[+] subjects regardless of ECG status. Cardiac autonomic evaluation may be useful for identification of subclinical disease in SERO[+] subjects.
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