1. Changes in the low-frequency (LF) components of blood pressure and heart rate variability and in the ratio of LF to high-frequency (HF) components of heart rate variability (LF/HF ratio) are used to assess acute changes in sympathetic control of blood pressure or heart rate and in sympathovagal balance that occur in response to physiological or pharmacological stimuli. Before these spectral indexes can be used to assess the effects of drug therapy or other clinical interventions on reflex sympathetic activity, their repeatability must be evaluated.
2. Intra-observer repeatability was studied by analysing changes in the LF components (expressed as absolute or normalized units) of cardiovascular variability and in the LF/HF ratio during sympathetic activation induced by nitroglycerin infusion (n = 10 subjects) or 60° head-up tilt (n = 13 subjects) repeated on two occasions, 2 days and 1 week apart respectively, in healthy young male volunteers. Repeatability was estimated as recommended by Bland and Altman.
3. Bland and Altman's plots of the repeatability of changes in the LF components and LF/HF ratio showed that measurements were sufficiently repeatable to be used over periods of time of up to 1 week in clinical studies.
4. The sample-size tables derived from our results show that expression of spectral components as normalized units, and use of a cross-over design, minimize the number of subjects to be included in clinical studies conducted using similar designs and LF component changes as endpoints.