Original article| Volume 23, ISSUE 8, P791-795, December 2001

Evaluation of autonomic nervous system function with spectral analysis of heart rate variability in a case of tetanus


      The autonomic nervous system is affected in a wide variety of neurological disorders. Its dysfunction may play an important role in the clinical course and may result in serious complications, such as cardiac arrest. We report a case of tetanus who presented with severe autonomic nervous system dysfunction which was detected by spectral analysis of heart rate variability monitored over 24 h. This is a semi-quantitative method for evaluation of the status of the autonomic nervous system. In the present case, the analysis revealed profoundly decreased activity of both sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system modulation of cardiac rhythm. The parasympathetic nervous system activity was more severely impaired than that of the sympathetic nervous system. The relative predominance of the sympathetic nervous system in the present case may have resulted in unopposed sympathetic nervous system hyperactivity manifested in this patient by tachycardia and excessive sweating. We further infer that the documented diminished buffering capacity of the autonomic nervous system may have lead to a sudden cardiac arrest in our case. Thus, spectral analysis of heart rate variability is a non-invasive and sensitive method for evaluating the status of the autonomic nervous system of critically ill patients in the hospital setting.



      ANS, autonomic nervous systems (), SNS, sympathetic nervous systems (), PNS, parasympathetic nervous systems (), HRV, heart rate variability (), DTP, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (), EEG, electroencephalogram (), ECG, electrocardiogram ()
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