Indexed on: 03 Apr '18Published on: 03 Apr '18Published in: American journal of perinatology
Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a complication of prematurity with a high mortality rate. Currently, there are no reliable biomarkers capable of identifying infants at risk for developing NEC. We sought to determine the autonomic nervous system antecedents of NEC in premature infants, using heart rate variability (HRV). HRV was quantified by retrieving archived electrocardiogram (EKG) data from 30 premature infants from 4 days prior, through 4 days after, the clinical NEC diagnosis. HRV metrics were compared with those on the diagnosis day using the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis. HRV metrics showed a depression of autonomic tone that preceded the clinical NEC diagnosis by 2 days, and which recovered to baseline by 2 days after diagnosis (area under the curve [AUC] < 0.7). The pattern of HRV change was significantly associated with the clinical severity of NEC (stage II vs. stage III). Our studies suggest that readily accessible metrics of autonomic depression might expedite the diagnosis of NEC and its severity in a clinically meaningful manner. Clearly, these studies need to be extended prospectively to determine the diagnostic utility of this approach. Thieme Medical Publishers 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA.