Respiratory sinus arrhythmia in the denervated human heart

L. Bernardi, F. Keller, M. Sanders, P. S. Reddy, B. Griffith, F. Meno, M. R. Pinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We performed this study to test whether the denervated human heart has the ability to manifest respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA). With the use of a highly sensitive spectral analysis technique (cross correlation) to define beat-to-beat coupling between respiratory frequency and heart rate period (R-R) and hence RSA, we compared the effects of patterned breathing at defined respiratory frequency and tidal volumes (VT), Valsalva and Mueller maneuvers, single deep breaths, and unpatterned spontaneous breathing on RSA in 12 normal volunteers and 8 cardiac allograft transplant recipients. In normal subjects R-R changes closely followed changes in respiratory frequency (P <0.001) but were little affected by changes in VT. On the R-R spectrum, an oscillation peak synchronous with respiration was found in heart transplant patients. However, the average magnitude of the respiration-related oscillations was 1.7-7.9% that seen in normal subjects and was proportionally more influenced by changes in VT. Changes in R-R induced by Valsalva and Mueller maneuvers were 3.8 and 4.9% of those seen in normal subjects, respectively, whereas changes in R-R induced by single deep breaths were 14.3% of those seen in normal subjects. The magnitude of RSA was not related to time since the heart transplantation, neither was it related to patient age of sex. Thus the heart has the intrinsic ability to vary heart rate in synchrony with ventilation, consistent with the hypothesis that changes, or rate of changes, in myocardial wall stretch might alter intrinsic heart rate independent of autonomic tone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1447-1455
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Physiology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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