Pulse rate variability: A new biomarker, not a surrogate for heart rate variability

Emi Yuda, Muneichi Shibata, Yuki Ogata, Norihiro Ueda, Tomoyuki Yambe, Makoto Yoshizawa, Junichiro Hayano

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


With the popularization of pulse wave signals by the spread of wearable watch devices incorporating photoplethysmography (PPG) sensors, many studies are reporting the accuracy of pulse rate variability (PRV) as a surrogate of heart rate variability (HRV). However, the authors are concerned about their research paradigm based on the assumption that PRV is a biomarker that reflects the same biological properties as HRV. Because PPG pulse wave and ECG R wave both reflect the periodic beating of the heart, pulse rate and heart rate should be equal, but it does not guarantee that the respective variabilities are also the same. The process from ECG R wave to PPG pulse wave involves several transformation steps of physical properties, such as those of electromechanical coupling and conversions from force to volume, volume to pressure, pressure impulse to wave, pressure wave to volume, volume to light intensity. In fact, there is concreate evidence that shows discrepancy between PRV and HRV, such as that demonstrating the presence of PRV in the absence of HRV, differences in PRV with measurement sites, differing effects of body posture and exercise between them. Our observations in adult patients with an implanted cardiac pacemaker also indicate that fluctuations in R-R intervals, pulse transit time, pulse intervals are modulated differently by autonomic functions, respiration, other factors. The authors suggest that it is more appropriate to recognize PRV as a different biomarker than HRV. Although HRV is a major determinant of PRV, PRV is caused by many other sources of variability, which could contain useful biomedical information that is neither error nor noise.

Original languageEnglish
Article number21
JournalJournal of Physiological Anthropology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Aug 18


  • Heart rate
  • Heart rate variability
  • Photoplethysmography
  • Pulse wave


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