Autonomic changes and heart rate variability in children with neurocardiac syncope

R. Sehra, J. E. Hubbard, S. P. Straka, N. S. Fineberg, E. D. Engelstein, D. P. Zipes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


This study evaluated resting autonomic function and autonomic responses to head-up tilt-table testing in children who experienced neurocardiac syncope to determine whether predictable differences existed between these patients and normal volunteers. Neurocardiac syncope is a common cause of syncope in children. The mechanism, though related to abnormalities in autonomic function, has not been fully elucidated, particularly in pediatric patients. This study evaluated resting autonomic tone using noninvasive autonomic function tests (i.e., Valsalva, handgrip, and deep breathing) and 24-hour heart rate variability (HRV). In addition, heart rate and blood pressure were evaluated during head-up tilt examination. Values from patients who experienced neurocardiac syncope were compared to those from age-matched normal volunteers. No significant differences were noted during noninvasive testing. Some time domain HRV variables demonstrated a trend toward significant difference (p < 0.10). Tilt testing data were significantly different in sinus beat to sinus beat (RR) intervals between controls and syncope patients at 2, 5, and 10 minutes after tilting. In addition, significant differences were noted in RR interval and the standard deviation of RR interval 1 or 2 minutes prior to syncope when compared to controls at 5 and 10 minutes after tilting. Children with syncope exhibited abnormalities during tilt testing indicating an increased sympathetic or decreased parasympathetic tone, particularly prior to syncope. Some measures of HRV might constitute noninvasive parameters that correlate with the positive tilt table test.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-247
Number of pages6
JournalPediatric Cardiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1999


  • Autonomic
  • Children
  • Heart rate variability
  • Syncope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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