Heart rate variability, Autonomic nervous system, Sympathetic, Parasympathetic, Physiological monitoring



  1. LEWIS, MICHAEL J. BSc, MSc, PhD, CPhys, MInstP


Heart rate monitoring is commonly used to provide an acute indicator of an individual's cardiovascular status and responsiveness. An increasingly popular technique involves quantifying the very small amounts by which the heart rate changes from one cardiac cycle to the next. This "heart rate variability (HRV) analysis" provides a substantial amount of additional information about the cardiovascular system and enables quantification of cardiac regulatory influences on the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system consists of two main components: the sympathetic system and the parasympathetic system. The relative influence of these two components on the sino-atrial node of the heart determines the heart rate. A number of physiological factors, including blood pressure and respiratory rate, can have a profound effect on this autonomic "balance." HRV analysis therefore provides a noninvasive method for investigating the dynamic influence of changing physiological parameters on cardiac regulation.