BACKGROUND: Acute ischemic stroke (AIS) is associated with autonomic dysfunction. We evaluated the prognostic value of heart rate variability (HRV) and the role of stroke localization and reperfusion treatment (RT) on autonomic control.
METHODS: Patients with AIS and sinus rhythm were enrolled in the emergency department. Autonomic parameters were recorded at the onset and after a potential RT. Neurological deficit was assessed using the National Institute of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) at the onset and residual disability with modified Rankin Scale (mRS) at 3 months. Two analyses were used to assess HRV. Low frequency (LF) and high frequency (HF) are, respectively, markers of sympathetic and respiratory vagal modulation in spectral analysis. Symbolic analysis provides pattern with no variation (0V%) as an index of sympathetic modulation and pattern with two like variations (2LV%) and pattern with two unlike variations (2UV%) as markers of vagal modulation.
RESULTS: We enrolled 41 patients. Twenty-seven underwent RT. A prevalent parasympathetic modulation was found in patients with NIHSS ≥14. The group with mRS 3-6 exhibited a higher 2UV% and lower 0V%. Right-sided strokes were associated with a higher respiratory vagal control. RT had no effects on HRV parameters.
CONCLUSIONS: In the very early phases of AIS, a decreased 0V% and an increased 2UV% may reflect a loss of sympathetic oscillation, predicting a poorer 3 month-outcome.