Normal values and reproducibility of the real-time index of vagal tone in healthy humans: a multi-center study

Authors Adam Donald Farmer, Steven J. Coen, Michiko Kano, Nathalie Weltens, Huynh Giao Ly, Claude Botha, Peter A. Paine, Lukas Van Oudenhove, Qasim Aziz.


Background The parasympathetic nervous system has been implicated in the pathogenesis of a number of gastrointestinal disorders including irritable bowel syndrome. Within the field, cardiometric parameters of parasympathetic/vagal tone are most commonly derived from time, or frequency, domain analysis of heart rate variability (HRV), yet it has limited temporal resolution. Cardiac vagal tone (CVT) is a non-invasive beat-to-beat measure of brainstem efferent vagal activity that overcomes many of the temporal limitations of HRV parameters. However, its normal values and reproducibility in healthy subjects are not fully described. The aim of this study was to address these knowledge gaps.

Methods 200 healthy subjects (106 males, median age 28 years, range 18-59 years) were evaluated across three study centers. Aft er attachment of CVT recording equipment, 20 min of data (resting/no stimulation) was acquired. 30 subjects, selected at random, were restudied after 1 year.

Results The mean CVT was 9.5±4.16 linear vagal scale (LVS). Thus, the normal range (mean±2 standard deviations) for CVT based on this data was 1.9-17.8 LVS. CVT correlated negatively with heart rate (r=-0.6, P=0.001). CVT reproducibility over 1 year, as indexed by an intra-class correlational coeffi cient of 0.81 (95% confi dence interval 0.64-0.91), was good.

Conclusions In healthy subjects, the normal range for CVT should be considered to be 1.9-17.8 LVS and is reproducible over 1 year. Future research utilizing CVT should refer to these values although further study is warranted in patient groups.

Keywords Autonomic nervous system, parasympathetic nervous system, cardiac vagal tone

Ann Gastroenterol 2014; 27 (4): 362-368

Original Articles