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Carbon monoxide poisoning may cause myocardial toxicity and cardiac autonomic dysfunction, which may contribute to the development of life-threatening arrhythmias. We investigated the potential association between acute carbon monoxide exposure and cardiac autonomic function measured by heart rate variability.
The present study included 40 children aged 1–17 years who were admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit with acute carbon monoxide poisoning and 40 healthy age- and sex-matched controls. Carboxyhaemoglobin and cardiac enzymes were measured at admission. Electrocardiography was performed on admission and discharge, and 24-hour Holter electrocardiography was digitally recorded. Heart rate variability was analysed at both time points – 24-hour recordings – and frequency domains – from the first 5 minutes of intensive care unit admission.
Time domain and frequency indices such as high-frequency spectral power and low-frequency spectral power were similar between patient and control groups (p>0.05). The ratio of low-frequency spectral power to high-frequency spectral power was significantly lower in the carbon monoxide poisoning group (p<0.001) and was negatively correlated with carboxyhaemoglobin levels (r=−0.351, p<0.05). The mean heart rate, QT dispersion, corrected QT dispersion, and P dispersion values were higher in the carbon monoxide poisoning group (p<0.05) on admission. The QT dispersion and corrected QT dispersion remained longer in the carbon monoxide poisoning group compared with controls on discharge (p<0.05).
The frequency domain indices, especially the ratio of low-frequency spectral power to high-frequency spectral power, are useful for the evaluation of the cardiac autonomic function. The decreased low-frequency spectral power-to-high-frequency spectral power ratio reflects a balance of the autonomic nervous system, which shifted to parasympathetic components.
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