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Fetal and Neonatal Edition of Archives of Disease in Childhood., May, 2008

Electromagnetic fields produced by incubators influence heart rate variability in newborns

Viernes 2 de mayo de 2008 · 1599 lecturas

Electromagnetic fields produced by incubators influence heart rate variability in newborns.

1 Department of Paediatrics,
Obstetrics and Reproductive
Medicine, University of Siena,
Italy; 2 Department of Clinical
Medicine and Immunological
Sciences, Section of Internal
Medicine, University of Siena,
Italy; 3 Department of
Environmental Physics, Unita`
sanitaria Locale 7, Siena. Italy

Background: Incubators are largely used to preserve
preterm and sick babies from postnatal stressors, but
their motors produce high electromagnetic fields (EMFs).
Newborns are chronically exposed to these EMFs, but no
studies about their effects on the fragile developing
neonatal structure exist.
Aim: To verify whether the exposure to incubator motor
electric power may alter autonomous nervous system
activity in newborns.
Material and methods: Heart rate variability (HRV) of 43
newborns in incubators was studied. The study group
comprised 27 newborns whose HRV was studied
throughout three 5-minute periods: with incubator motor
on, off, and on again, respectively. Mean HRV values
obtained during each period were compared. The control
group comprised 16 newborns with constantly unrecordable
EMF and exposed to changes in background noise,
similar to those provoked by the incubator motor.
Results: Mean (SD) total power and the high-frequency
(HF) component of HRV increased significantly (from 87.1
(76.2) ms2 to 183.6 (168.5) ms2) and the mean lowfrequency
(LF)/HF ratio decreased significantly (from 2.0
(0.5) to 1.5 (0.6)) when the incubator motor was turned
off. Basal values (HF=107.1 (118.1) ms2 and LF/
HF=1.9 (0.6)) were restored when incubators were
turned on again. The LF spectral component of HRV
showed a statistically significant change only in the
second phase of the experiment. Changes in background
noise did not provoke any significant change in HRV.
Conclusion: EMFs produced by incubators influence
newborns’ HRV, showing an influence on their autonomous
nervous system. More research is needed to assess
possible long-term consequences, since premature newborns
may be exposed to these high EMFs for months.

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