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Heart rate variability and target organ damage in hypertensive patients

Paolo Melillo1*, Raffaele Izzo2, Nicola De Luca2 and Leandro Pecchia3

Author Affiliations

1 Multidisciplinary Department of Medical Sciences, Second University of Naples, Via Pansini, 5, Naples, Italy

2 Departments of Clinical Medicine, Cardiovascular and Immunological Sciences, Federico II University Hospital, Via Pansini, 5, Naples, Italy

3 Electrical Systems and optics research division, Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK

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BMC Cardiovascular Disorders 2012, 12:105  doi:10.1186/1471-2261-12-105

Published: 15 November 2012



We evaluated the association between linear standard Heart Rate Variability (HRV) measures and vascular, renal and cardiac target organ damage (TOD).


A retrospective analysis was performed including 200 patients registered in the Regione Campania network (aged 62.4 ± 12, male 64%). HRV analysis was performed by 24-h holter ECG. Renal damage was assessed by estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), vascular damage by carotid intima-media thickness (IMT), and cardiac damage by left ventricular mass index.


Significantly lower values of the ratio of low to high frequency power (LF/HF) were found in the patients with moderate or severe eGFR (p-value < 0.001). Similarly, depressed values of indexes of the overall autonomic modulation on heart were found in patients with plaque compared to those with a normal IMT (p-value <0.05). These associations remained significant after adjustment for other factors known to contribute to the development of target organ damage, such as age. Moreover, depressed LF/HF was found also in patients with left ventricular hypertrophy but this association was not significant after adjustment for other factors.


Depressed HRV appeared to be associated with vascular and renal TOD, suggesting the involvement of autonomic imbalance in the TOD. However, as the mechanisms by which abnormal autonomic balance may lead to TOD, and, particularly, to renal organ damage are not clearly known, further prospective studies with longitudinal design are needed to determine the association between HRV and the development of TOD.

Heart Rate Variability; Target organ damage; Hypertension