Sympathetic-parasympathetic activation during spontaneous attacks of cluster headache: evaluation by spectral analysis of heart-rate fluctuations.
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Twenty-four hour ECG Holter and blood-pressure monitorings were performed in eight patients suffering from cluster headache. Spectral analysis of heart-rate fluctuation was used to assess the autonomic balance under basal conditions, after head-up tilt, and during a spontaneous attack. Normal autonomic balance was found at rest and during sympathetic activation obtained with head-up tilt in the interparoxysmal period. Before the onset of headache, an increase in the low-frequency (LF) component of the power spectrum was apparent in all patients. This sign of sympathetic activation was followed by an increase in the high-frequency (HF) component that developed about 2000 beats after the onset of headache and rapidly overcame the LF component until the end of pain. Significant differences were found when comparing the spectral parameters [total spectral values (TP), power of the LF and HF components and LF/HF ratio] obtained before, during and after headache. During the attack, blood pressure increased and heart rate decreased in all subjects. There appears to be a primary activation of both sympathetic and parasympathetic functions in cluster headache attacks. The sympathetic component seems to be involved mostly in the development of the attack, whereas the parasympathetic activation seems to occur, following the onset of the attack, independently of the pain.
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