Identifying variables predictive of neurobehavioural sequelae is a key objective in the study of high-risk neonates. Examination of heart rate variability (HRV) characteristics may be a finer discriminator of the neonate's response to physiologic stressors than the mean heart rate. The energy entropy of the heart beat tachogram, computed in four different domains, was used to quantify the HRV in 13 preterm neonates. The entropies of energies were computed from 1024 interbeat time intervals obtained once per week from 26 to 35 weeks postconceptional age (PCA). The energy entropy computed in three of the domains, like the standard deviation of intervals, distinguished between the 10 neonates that were measured at 35 weeks PCA with 100% specificity and 67% sensitivity, but did not distinguish between healthy and unhealthy neonates at earlier ages. The findings suggest that energy entropy may be a discerning measure of physiologic stress in the preterm infant, although future research is needed to refine the test and determine statistical significance.
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