Despite their extensive use, the reproducibility of cardiac autonomic measurements in children is not well-known. We investigated the reproducibility of short-term continuous measurements of heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (HRV, time and frequency domain), and spontaneous baroreflex sensitivity (BRS, frequency domain) in the supine and standing position in 57 children (11.2 ± 0.7 years, 52.6% boys). Reproducibility between two sessions within a two-week interval was evaluated by intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs), standard error of measurement, coefficients of variation (CVs), limits of agreement, and Bland-Altman plots. HR and HRV were moderately-to-highly (ICC = 63-79; CV = 5.7%-9.7%) and BRS moderately (ICC = 49-63; CV = 11.4%-14.0%) reproducible. While the BRS measurements were slightly less reproducible than the HR and HRV measurements, all can be reliably applied in research, thus implicating sufficient capacity to detect real differences between children. Still, clinical studies focusing on individual changes in cardiac autonomic functioning need to address the considerable random variations that may occur between test-retest measurements.

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Biological Psychology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Dietrich, A, Rosmalen, J.G.M, Althaus, M, van Roon, A.M.M, Mulder, L.J.M, Minderaa, R.B, … Riese, H. (2010). Reproducibility of heart rate variability and baroreflex sensitivity measurements in children. Biological Psychology, 85(1), 71–78. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2010.05.005