Autonomic predictors of recovery following surgery: A comparative study

John B. Williamson, Greg Lewis, Angela J. Grippo, Damon Lamb, Emily Harden, Mika Handleman, Jocelyn Lebow, C. Sue Carter, Stephen W. Porges

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Although heart rate and temperature are continuously monitored in patients during recovery following surgery, measures that extract direct manifestations of neural regulation of autonomic circuits from the beat-to-beat heart rate may be more sensitive to outcome. We explore the relationship between features of autonomic regulation and survival in the prairie vole, a small mammal, with features of vagal regulation of the heart similar to humans. Cardiac vagal regulation is manifested in the beat-to-beat heart rate variability (HRV) pattern and can be quantified by extracting measures of the amplitude of periodic oscillations associated with spontaneous breathing. Thus, monitoring beat-to-beat heart rate patterns post-surgery in the prairie vole may provide an opportunity to dynamically assess autonomic adjustments during recovery. Surgeries to implant telemetry devices to monitor body temperature and continuous ECG in prairie voles are routinely performed in our laboratory. Ten of these implanted prairie voles died within 48. h post-surgery. To compare the post-surgery autonomic trajectories with typical surviving prairie voles, the post-surgery data from 17 surviving prairie voles were randomly selected. The data are reported hourly for 27 prairie voles between 6 and 14. h (1. h before the demise of the first subject) post-surgery. Receiver operator curves were calculated hourly for each variable to evaluate sensitivity in discriminating survival. The data illustrate that measures of HRV are the most sensitive indicators. These findings provide a foundation for investigating further neural mechanisms of cardiovascular function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-66
Number of pages7
JournalAutonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Anesthesia
  • Animal model
  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Heart rate variability
  • Surgery recovery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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