OBJECTIVES: We sought to assess applicability, clinical correlates, and prognostic value of the transfer function method for measuring baroreflex sensitivity (TF-BRS). BACKGROUND: Abnormalities in autonomic reflexes play an important role in the development and progression of chronic heart failure (CHF). Simple and non-invasive techniques for clinical measurement of such reflexes are desirable. METHODS: In 317 stable CHF patients in sinus rhythm (median age [interquartile range]: 54 years [48 to 59 years], New York Heart Association [NYHA] functional class II to III: 88%, left ventricular ejection fraction [LVEF]: 27% [22% to 33%]) we recorded electrocardiograms and non-invasive arterial pressure during paced breathing to measure TF-BRS. RESULTS: Owing to a high number of ectopic beats, TF-BRS could be computed in 72% of the patients; TF-BRS was lower in NYHA functional class III to IV and mitral regurgitation 2 to 3 (p <0.0005 for both). Correlation with LVEF and standard deviation of all normal-to-normal intervals was 0.18 and 0.31 (p <0.001 for both). During a mean follow-up of 26 months, 23% of the patients experienced a cardiac event. A depressed TF-BRS (≤3.1 ms/mm Hg) was significantly associated with the outcome (hazard ratio 3.2, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.7 to 6.0, p = 0.0003). Patients with a missing TF-BRS had a high event rate (36%). Combining this information with available TF-BRS measurements, a new prognostic index could be computed in 97% of the patients that significantly predicted the outcome after adjustment for clinical and functional variables (hazard ratio 2.5, 95% CI 1.3 to 4.6 p = 0.004). CONCLUSIONS: In CHF patients in sinus rhythm, TF-BRS conveys relevant clinical and prognostic information, but its measurability is markedly affected by ectopic activity. Nevertheless, a TF-BRS-based risk index carrying significant and independent prognostic information can be computed in almost all patients.
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