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Volume 2 Supplement 1


  • Poster presentation
  • Open Access

0600. Altered electrical activity of the heart in pigs during apnoea

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  • 2,
  • 1,
  • 2,
  • 1,
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  • 1
Intensive Care Medicine Experimental20142 (Suppl 1) :P41

  • Published:


  • Fentanyl
  • Elevated Intracranial Pressure
  • Life Threatening Arrhythmia
  • Electrical Instability
  • Heart Pathology


Cardiac arrhythmias are a major cause of morbidity and mortality. Their overall incidence is reported to vary between 14 and 19 percent in adult patients admitted to intensive care units [1]. Even in patients without prior heart pathologies, an electrical instability could be detected during repolarisation shortly before cardiac arrest with a high resolution ECG, not recordable with a conventional ECG [1]. Furthermore the effects of disease pattern and intensive care measures e.g. sepsis and elevated intracranial pressure and the administration of pressure support on heart rate and variability is poorly described and understood. In contrast even minor circadian beat to beat variations might precede the occurrence of potentially life threatening arrhythmias. Thus circadian haemodynamic profiles might thus be a marker of potentially life threatening arrhythmias and an early predictor of prognosis. It seems therefore of importance to recognize even small changes of the circadian cardiac rhythm as early as possible.


Changes in ventilation such as hypoxia are a major cause of haemodynamic alterations. We analysed changes of beat-to-beat cardiac activity during experimental apnoea in swine with a high resolution ECG. Obtained results may offer new insights in the development of alterations in cardiac electrical activity and thus heart lung interactions in critically ill patients.


Four healthy pigs (36kg) were anesthetized with Sevofluran and Fentanyl according to protocol and electrodes were fixed on the prepared skin. To analyse the cardiac electric activity during normal anaesthesia and phases of three-minutes-apnoe the leads record I, II and III and reconstruct pursuant to Einthoven's equation aVR, aVL, aVF, at a 1000 Hz sampling rate, obtaining continuous ten-minute recordings (Lab SystemTh Pro - Bard electrophysiology U.S.A.).


Results obtained from 12 apnoea-phases demonstrate that from the beginning of the apnoea the R-peak increases beat-to-beat additionally up to 0.25 mV (p< 0,05), reaching its maximum after nine seconds. This variation persisted for the entire duration of the apnoea. After restarting ventilation, the following R-peaks decreased within the next eleven seconds to their pre-value. Furthermore a reduction of the heart rate during the phase of apnoea could be observed. Other ECG data of the pigs remained unchanged during the time of apnoea.


In otherwise healthy pigs, haemodynamic alterations could already be detected seconds after the onset of apnoea. With regard to comorbidities of ICU patients, it seems reasonable that changes in cardiac electric activity based on heart lung interactions in humans during their ICU stay might be observed even earlier. They furthermore might serve as early markers for the occurrence of arrhythmias and disease severity.

Authors’ Affiliations

Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany


  1. Muller JE: Circadian variation in the frequency of sudden cardiac death. Circulation 1987,75(1):131–138. 10.1161/01.CIR.75.1.131PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
  2. Haran B: Journal of Electrocardiology. 2006.Google Scholar


© Tudor et al; licensee Springer. 2014

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.