Therapeutic hypothermia (TH) aims to ameliorate further injury in infants with moderate and severe hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). We aim to assess the effect of TH on heart rate variability (HRV) in infants with HIE.
Multichannel video-electroencephalography (EEG) and electrocardiography were assessed at 6-72 h after birth in full-term infants with HIE, recruited prior to (pre-TH group) and following (TH group) the introduction of TH in our neonatal unit. HIE severity was graded using EEG. HRV features investigated include: mean NN interval (mean NN), standard deviation of NN interval (SDNN), triangular interpolation (TINN), high-frequency (HF), low-frequency (LF), very low-frequency (VLF), and LF/HF ratio. Linear mixed model comparisons were used.
118 infants (pre-TH: n = 44, TH: n = 74) were assessed. The majority of HRV features decreased with increasing EEG grade. Infants with moderate HIE undergoing TH had significantly different HRV features compared with the pre-TH group (HF: P = 0.016, LF/HF ratio: P = 0.006). In the pre-TH group, LF/HF ratio was significantly different between moderate and severe HIE grades (P = 0.002). In the TH group, significant differences were observed between moderate and severe HIE grades for SDNN: P = 0.020, TINN: P = 0.005, VLF: P = 0.029, LF: P = 0.010, and HF: P = 0.006.
The HF component of HRV is increased in infants with moderate HIE undergoing TH.