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Research Library

Heart Rate Variability: Pre‑Deployment Predictor of Post‑Deployment PTSD Symptoms


Heart rate variability is a physiological measure associated with autonomic nervous system activity. Thisstudy hypothesized that lower pre-deployment HRV would be associated with higher post-deploymentpost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Three-hundred-forty-three Army National Guard sol-diers enrolled in the Warriors Achieving Resilience (WAR) study were analyzed. The primary outcomewas PTSD symptom severity using the PTSD Checklist – Military version (PCL) measured at baseline,3- and 12-month post-deployment. Heart rate variability predictor variables included: high frequencypower (HF) and standard deviation of the normal cardiac inter-beat interval (SDNN). Generalized linearmixed models revealed that the pre-deployment PCL*ln(HF) interaction term was significant (p < 0.0001).Pre-deployment SDNN was not a significant predictor of post-deployment PCL. Covariates included age,pre-deployment PCL, race/ethnicity, marital status, tobacco use, childhood abuse, pre-deployment trau-matic brain injury, and previous combat zone deployment. Pre-deployment heart rate variability predictspost-deployment PTSD symptoms in the context of higher pre-deployment PCL scores.