Heart rate variability, mortality, and exercise in patients with end-stage renal disease

A. K. Cashion, P. A. Cowan, E. J. Milstead, A. O. Gaber, D. K. Hathaway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Context - Cardiac autonomic function has been associated with mortality in patients with end-stage renal disease. It is unknown whether end-stage renal disease patients who have succumbed to sudden cardiac death can be better identified by a newer test of heart rate variability that uses spectral analysis, rather than laboratory evoked measures. Objective - This series of studies sought to characterize cardiac autonomic function in patients awaiting kidney transplantation, identify factors associated with heart rate variability, identify tests which distinguish patients at-risk for death, and compare evoked measures with 24-hour heart rate variability measures. Patients - Data were collected on 184 nondiabetics, 60 type 1 diabetics, and 34 type 2 diabetics with end-stage renal disease, all of whom had been referred for kidney transplantation. Main Outcome Measures - The 278 patients and 67 healthy control subjects underwent evoked tests (changes in heart rate with deep breathing and Valsalva maneuver) and 24-hour heart rate variability Holter monitoring (time and frequency domains). Five patients had sudden cardiac deaths during the study. Results -Data showed that end-stage renal disease patients, particularly diabetics, had compromised autonomic function. The standard deviation of all R-to-R intervals for the electrocardiogram recording (<50 minutes in 60% of the deceased patients), a 24-hour heart rate variability time domain measure, holds the promise of identifying patients at increased risk for death. Exercise was identified as a factor associated with better autonomic function. Examining relationships between 24-hour heart rate variability and characteristics of patients who succumb to death could make quantification of the mortality risk for individual pretransplant end-stage renal disease patients possible, much as it has in other populations. The data from this study may also make it possible to design interventions, such as exercise, aimed at reducing mortality risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-16
Number of pages7
JournalProgress in Transplantation
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transplantation


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