To assess the usefulness of specific cardiovascular reflex tests in childhood and to estimate the prevalence of cardiovascular reflex abnormalities among children with IDDM. In adults, abnormal cardiovascular reflexes are a frequent complication of diabetes, associated with increased morbidity and mortality.


We measured heart-rate responses to deep breathing and standing in ambulatory children with and without IDDM between 6–19 yr of age. A subgroup of the IDDM patients was retested after 1 yr.


We found the best techniques for detecting cardiovascular reflex abnormality in children were as follows: to record heart-rate responses to deep breathing either as the change inheart rate corrected for inspiratory heart rate or as the ratio of R-R intervals during expiration and inspiration; and to use the Maximum-minimum ratio for heart-rate responses to standing. HR-DBC was lower in diabetic than nondiabetic children (28.6 ± 9.2% [n = 248] vs. 33.6 ± 6.8% [n = 60]; P < 0.0005). Similarly, E:I was lower in children with IDDM than control subjects (1.42 ± 0.19 [n = 248] vs. 1.52 ± 0.15 [n = 60]; P < 0.0005). In the IDDM group, 21% of the children had abnormal HR-DBc or E:I responses. HR-STND M/m was lower in children with IDDM than control subjects (1.28 ± 0.20 [n = 167] vs. 1.38 ± 0.22 [n = 45]; P < 0.014). Among children with IDDM, 11.4% had abnormal HR-STND M/m responses. Overall, 29% of IDDM children tested abnormal in either HR-DBC or HR-STND M/m; 3% were abnormal in both tests. We found no correlation of HbA1c levels (n = 74) or duration of diabetes with either HR-DB, expiration to inspiration (n = 248), or HR-STND M/m (n = 167). In patients who were reevaluated after 1 yr we found a high correlation of the first and repeat HR-DBC tests (r = 0.47, n = 75, P < 0.0001), E:I (r = 0.53, n = 75, P < 0.0001), and HR-STND M/m (r = .49, n = 37, P < 0.002), but no evidence of an increased number of children with cardiovascular reflex abnormality.


With easily performed HR-DB and HR-STND tests, we detected cardiovascular reflex abnormality in 29% of children with IDDM. We found no correlation of changes in HR-DB and HR-STND with HbA1c or duration of diabetes. These tests provide an objective clinical measurement to monitor autonomic neuropathy in children with diabetes.

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