From Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA:
I have been told that I should have something called my "heart rate variability" monitored, and I haven't been able to find very much information about it. What is it? Since I have diabetes, how concerned should be about it?
Heart beat variability demonstrates an intact autonomic nervous system. For instance, it is normal for there to be variation in the rate of the heart beat based on different stages of respirations. No beat-to-beat variability suggests the autonomic nervous system may be involved with diabetic neuropathy.
The test, usually performed in the research setting, is very sensitive. It is possible for you to have a positive test and no symptoms. On the other hand, maybe you have had symptoms and someone thinks it would be helpful as a marker.
You should talk to your physician about how to use the test because you may be able to diagnose the presence of lack of beat-to-beat variability, but you may not be able to do much more than that if present.
[Editor's comment: There have been companies pitching commercial devices to doctors that measure heartbeat variability. I once had the device demonstrated to me by a sales representative. It was cute, and the test was apparently reimbursable by insurance, but I couldn't figure out how knowing the information would change my recommendations to my patients, so I said to heck with it. See Measurement of heart rate variability for more information. WWQ]
Original posting 16 Nov 2001
Posted to Complications
Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:09:27
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