Respiratory sinus arrhythmia

Respiratory sinus arrhythmia

Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) is a naturally occurring variation in heart rate that occurs during a breathing cycle. Heart rate increases during inspiration and decreases during expiration. Heart rate is normally controlled by centers in the medulla oblongata. One of these centers, the nucleus ambiguus, increases parasympathetic nervous system input to the heart via the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve decreases heart rate by decreasing the rate of SA node firing. Upon expiration the cells in the nucleus ambiguus are activated and heart rate is slowed down. In contrast, inspiration triggers inhibitory signals to the nucleus ambiguus and consequently the vagus nerve remains unstimulated.

On an electrocardiogram this phenomenon is seen as subtle changes in the R-R interval synchronized with respiration. The R-R interval on an ECG is shortened during inspiration and prolonged during expiration. In humans, the magnitude of the RSA increases with physical conditioning and self-induced, relaxed breathing. RSA becomes less prominent with age, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. cite web |url= |title=Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia |format= |work= |accessdate=2008-05-31]

Previous studies have shown that the efficiency of pulmonary gas exchange is improved by RSA, suggesting that RSA may play an active physiologic role. The matched timing of alveolar ventilation and its perfusion with RSA within each respiratory cycle could save energy expenditure by suppressing unnecessary heartbeats during expiration and ineffective ventilation during the ebb of perfusion. Furthermore, evidence has accumulated of a possible dissociation between RSA and vagal control of that heart rate, suggesting differential controls between the respiratory modulation of cardiac vagal outflow and cardiac vagal tone. RSA or heart rate variability in synchrony with respiration is a biological phenomenon, which may have a positive influence on gas exchange at the level of the lung via efficient ventilation/perfusion matching. [Chest. 2004 Feb;125(2):683-90 Yasuma F et al.]



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