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Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia in Cluster Headache Syndrome


Piotr Kruszewski, M.D., Department of Neurology, Trondheim University Hospital, N-7006 Trondheim, Norway.



Respiratory sinus arrhythmia is regarded as indicative of cardiac vagal integrity. A ratio of the longest R-R interval to the shortest R-R interval during deep breathing test (E:I ratio) was calculated in controls (n=49), cluster headache (n=33) and CPH (n=4) patients, E:I ratio decreased with age but was not dependent upon sex or upon smoking habits. Furthermore, there were no significant differences as regards E:I ratio between cluster headache patients in and outside a bout, or between patients with right-sided and left-sided headache. However, the E:I ratio was found to be significantly lower in the cluster headache group as such, when compared with controls, but the number of patients disclosing pathological or borderline results was small, 2 and 2, respectively. This may indicate that a putative vagal dysfunction in cluster headache is usually less marked than in patients with e.g. diabetic autonomic neuropathy. Significant attack-related change in the E:I ratio were detected in all individual patients though these changes were not of a uniform nature from individual to individual. E:I ratios were rather high in 3 out of 4 CPH patients examined. However, the number of patients in this group is too small to allow definite statements about the difference between CPH end cluster headache with regard to E:I ratios. There was no significant difference between E:I ratios outside and during a mild, short, mechanically precipitated attack in a single CPH patient.