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Heart rate variability characteristics of patients with irritable bowel syndrome and associations with symptoms

Journal article
Authors Annikka Polster
Peter Friberg
Veronica Gunterberg
Lena Öhman
B. Le Neve
Hans Törnblom
Marija Cvijovic
Magnus Simrén
Published in Neurogastroenterology and Motility
Volume 30
Issue 7
ISSN 1350-1925
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Mathematical Sciences
Institute of Biomedicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Institute of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine and Clinical Nutrition
Institute of Medicine, Department of Molecular and Clinical Medicine
Language en
Keywords autonomic nervous system, brain-gut axis, heart rate variability, irritable bowel syndrome, nervous-system function, functional gastrointestinal disorders, psychophysiological responses, mental stress, women, disease, pain, severity, scale, depression, Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Neurosciences & Neurology
Subject categories Neurosciences, Gastroenterology and Hepatology


BackgroundDisturbed brain-gut interactions are assumed to be of importance for symptom generation in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is part of the bidirectional brain-gut communication, but previous studies in IBS show diverging results. We aimed to identify subgroups of IBS patients with distinct ANS characteristics differentiating them from healthy controls (HC), and to study associations between ANS status and symptoms. MethodsHeart rate variability (HRV) was measured in IBS patients and HC (Holter monitoring: supine and standing positions with controlled respiration and ambulatory 24-hour period). Frequency (5minutes, supine, standing) and time domains (24hours, day, night) were analyzed. Validated questionnaires were used to measure gastrointestinal and psychological symptoms in patients. Patients and HC were compared on a univariate and multivariate level (principal component analysis [PCA] and orthogonal partial least squares discriminatory analysis (OPLS-DA)). Key ResultsWe analyzed 158 IBS patients (Rome III) and 39 HC. Patients differed significantly from HC in HRV parameters during daytime and in standing position. In the PCA, a majority of patients overlapped with HC, but the weighted means differed (P<.01). A subset of patients (n=30; 19%) with an aberrant global HRV profile was identified through PCA and OPLS-DA; these patients reported more severe symptoms of frequent (P<.05) and loose stools (P=.03), as well as urgency (P=.01). Conclusions and InferencesAltered ANS function was demonstrated in patients with IBS, and this might be of particular relevance for symptoms in a subset of the patients.

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