The higher resting heart rate in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) patients compared to healthy controls: relation with stroke volumes.

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C (Linda) M.C. van Campen Frans C. Visser, MD, PhD


Introduction: In patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) a higher-than-normal resting heart rate has been reported in a number of studies. As heart rate is linked to stroke volume, the present study explored the relationship between the supine heart rate and stroke volume index in healthy controls and in ME/CFS patients. Moreover, as patients with a postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) during tilt testing, have a higher supine heart rate than patients with a normal heart rate and blood pressure response during tilting, these two patient groups were also compared.

Methods and results: From a database of individuals who had undergone tilt-testing, including supine Doppler measurements for stroke volume index calculation, we selected ME/CFS patients and healthy controls without evidence of hypotension or syncope. 474 ME/CFS patients were analyzed, 314 with a normal heart rate and blood pressure response and 160 with POTS during tilt-testing, and 56 healthy controls. Resting stroke volume indices were similar between the 3 groups. All 3 groups had an inverse relation between the resting stroke volume index and resting heart rate (all p<0.0001). The slope of the relation was not significantly different between the 3 groups. Using the upper limit of the 95% prediction interval for the heart rate of healthy controls, 46 (15%) of patients with a normal heart rate and blood pressure response had a resting heart rate above the upper limit, 248 (85%) a heart rate between the upper and lower limit. In 47 (29%) patients developing POTS the resting heart rate was above the upper limit, and in 113 (71%) patients within the upper limit and lower limit. This distribution was significantly different between the two patient groups (p=0.0001).

Conclusion: Patients and healthy controls showed a significant and inverse relation between the SVI and heart rate at rest. Already at rest heart rate in patients developing POTS during tilt-testing were higher compared to the patients with a normal heart rate and blood pressure response per unit of SVI, but the heart rate of the majority of all patients fell within the limits of normal of healthy controls. The difference of patients with heart rate above the upper limit versus between the upper limit and lower limit deserves further investigation and may have therapeutic implications.

Keywords: ME/CFS, myalgic encephalomyelitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, healthy controls, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, POTS, stroke volume index, heart rate

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VAN CAMPEN, C (Linda) M.C.; VISSER, Frans C.. The higher resting heart rate in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) patients compared to healthy controls: relation with stroke volumes.. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 10, n. 6, june 2022. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 29 may 2023. doi:
Research Articles


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