The purpose of this study was to investigate the function of the autonomic nervous system in children with spastic cerebral palsy (CP) through an analysis of heart rate variability (HRV) occurring with orthostatic stress. Twelve children with spastic CP and twelve normal children participated in this study. The echocardiogram (ECG) signals were recorded for 3 minutes in both the supine and 70° head-up tilt positions, and then the HRV signals underwent power spectrum analysis at each position. Two components were measured; a low-frequency (LF) component (0.05 - 0.15Hz) primarily reflecting sympathetic activity during orthostatic stress and a high-frequency (HF) component (0.15 - 0.4Hz) reflecting parasympathetic activity. In the supine position, there was no significant difference between any of the HRV components of the two groups. In the head-up tilt position, absolute and normalized LF were significantly increased and absolute HF was significantly decreased in the normal children (p < 0.05), but not in the children with spastic CP. The results of this study suggest that cardiac autonomic functions, such as vagal withdrawal and sympathetic activation which occur during head-up tilt position, are not sufficient to overcome the orthostatic stress arising in spastic CP children.
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