Heart rate variability and the central autonomic network in the severe disorder of consciousness
Francesco Riganello, Giuliano Dolce, Walter G. Sannita
Objective: To review the applicability of heart rate variability measures in research on severe disorder of consciousness.
Methods: The available evidence on the correlation between heart rate variability measures and the outcome or residual functional state/responsiveness of severely brain-injured patients (including those in vegetative or minimally conscious states) are reviewed and discussed with reference to the central autonomic network model.
Results and conclusion: Heart rate variability analyses appear to be applicable to assess residual or emerging (higher level) function in brain-injured patients with disordered consciousness and to predict outcome. In this regard, the central autonomic network model is heuristic in the understanding of heart rate variability descriptors of the central nervous system/autonomic systems relationship.
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