Determination of heart rate variability with an electronic stethoscope
Heart rate variability (HRV) is widely used to characterize cardiac autonomic function by measuring beat-to-beat alterations in heart rate. Decreased HRV has been found predictive of worse cardiovascular (CV) outcomes. HRV is determined from time intervals between QRS complexes recorded by electrocardiography (ECG) for several minutes to 24 h. Although cardiac auscultation with a stethoscope is performed routinely on patients, the human ear cannot detect heart sound time intervals. The electronic stethoscope digitally processes heart sounds, from which cardiac time intervals can be obtained.
Accordingly, the objective of this study was to determine the feasibility of obtaining HRV from electronically recorded heart sounds. We prospectively studied 50 subjects with and without CV risk factors/disease and simultaneously recorded single lead ECG and heart sounds for 2 min.
Time and frequency measures of HRV were calculated from R–R and S1–S1 intervals and were compared using intra-class correlation coefficients (ICC).
The majority of the indices were strongly correlated (ICC 0.73–1.0), while the remaining indices were moderately correlated (ICC 0.56–0.63). In conclusion, we found HRV measures determined from S1–S1 are in agreement with those determined by single lead ECG, and we demonstrate and discuss differences in the measures in detail. In addition to characterizing cardiac murmurs and time intervals, the electronic stethoscope holds promise as a convenient low-cost tool to determine HRV in the hospital and outpatient settings as a practical extension of the physical examination.
KeywordsHeart rate variability Electronic stethoscope Autonomic function Physical examination
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