Does heart rate variability reflect the systemic inflammatory response in a fetal sheep model of lipopolysaccharide-induced sepsis?

Lucien D Durosier, Christophe L Herry, Marina Cortes, Mingju Cao, Patrick Burns, André Desrochers, Gilles Fecteau, Andrew J E Seely, Martin G Frasch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fetal inflammatory response occurs during chorioamnionitis, a frequent and often subclinical inflammation associated with increased risk for brain injury and life-lasting neurologic deficits. No means of early detection exist. We hypothesized that systemic fetal inflammation without septic shock will be reflected in alterations of fetal heart rate (FHR) variability (fHRV) distinguishing baseline versus inflammatory response states.In chronically instrumented near-term fetal sheep (n = 24), we induced an inflammatory response with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) injected intravenously (n = 14). Ten additional fetuses served as controls. We measured fetal plasma inflammatory cytokine IL-6 at baseline, 1, 3, 6, 24 and 48 h. 44 fHRV measures were determined continuously every 5 min using continuous individualized multi-organ variability analysis (CIMVA). CIMVA creates an fHRV measures matrix across five signal-analytical domains, thus describing complementary properties of fHRV. Using principal component analysis (PCA), a widely used technique for dimensionality reduction, we derived and quantitatively compared the CIMVA fHRV PCA signatures of inflammatory response in LPS and control groups.In the LPS group, IL-6 peaked at 3 h. In parallel, PCA-derived fHRV composite measures revealed a significant difference between LPS and control group at different time points. For the LPS group, a sharp increase compared to baseline levels was observed between 3 h and 6 h, and then abating to baseline levels, thus tracking closely the IL-6 inflammatory profile. This pattern was not observed in the control group. We also show that a preselection of fHRV measures prior to the PCA can potentially increase the difference between LPS and control groups, as early as 1 h post LPS injection.We propose a fHRV composite measure that correlates well with levels of inflammation and tracks well its temporal profile. Our results highlight the potential role of HRV to study and monitor the inflammatory response non-invasively over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2089-102
Number of pages14
JournalPhysiological Measurement
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


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