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Association between cardiac sympathovagal indices and psychological status of recent pediatric oncology caregivers: A pilot study

Jayakrishna Jayaganapathy, Rajalakshmi Rajasegaran, Biswajit Dubashi, Thenmozhi Mani.

Background: Parents who are caregivers of children diagnosed with cancer undergo significant amounts of stress and psychological distress. Exposure to chronic stress is known to result in autonomic imbalance, a known risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

Aim and Objective: The objective of this study was to assess the association between the cardiac sympathovagal indices and the psychological status of parents of children recently diagnosed with cancer.

Materials and Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted in the Department of Physiology in collaboration with the Department of Medical Oncology at Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry. Thirty caregivers (19 males, 11 females) fulfilling the inclusion and exclusion criteria were recruited in the study. Cardiac sympathovagal indices and psychological status of study participants were assessed using Heart Rate Variability (HRV) analysis technique and the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale 21 (DASS-21) questionnaire respectively. The correlation between depression (D), anxiety (A) and stress (S) scores and HRV indices were assessed using the Spearman Correlation Coefficient test. P < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.

Results: Symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress were reported in 100%, 90% and 80% of participants respectively. There was no significant correlation between the HRV indices and D, A, S scores. Non-significant negative correlations were observed between HRV indices indicative of cardiac parasympathetic activity and depression, anxiety and stress scores, thus indicating a trend towards decreased cardiac parasympathetic activity in these individuals.

Conclusion: The psychological status of recent pediatric oncology caregivers is not associated with the cardiac autonomic status of these individuals. Longitudinal studies with a larger sample size are required to substantiate the results of the study.

Key words: Pediatric Oncology Caregivers; Heart Rate Variability; Depression; Anxiety; Stress

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