Feasibility of a remote heart rate variability biofeedback intervention for reducing anxiety in cardiac arrest survivors: A pilot trial

Jeffrey L. Birk, Robin Cumella, David Lopez-Veneros, Sachin Agarwal, Ian M. Kronish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Heart rate variability biofeedback (HRVB) is a promising non-pharmacologic approach for reducing anxiety. This intervention's feasibility needs testing in psychologically distressed cardiac patients for whom heart-related anxiety is a core concern. To enhance scalability and convenience, remote delivery of HRVB also needs to be assessed. Accordingly, we evaluated the feasibility of remote HRVB in survivors of cardiac arrest (CA) with elevated CA-related psychological distress. Methods: The intervention was comprised of daily sessions of diaphragmatic paced breathing and real-time monitoring of cardiac activity guided by a smartphone app and heart rate monitor. This single-arm feasibility trial assessed the percentage of eligible contacted patients who consented and engaged in the study and the self-reported acceptability, feasibility, appropriateness, and usability of the intervention. Exploratory analyses assessed pre-to-post changes in trait anxiety, negative affect, cardiac-related interoceptive fear, and resting-state HRV. Results: Of 12 eligible CA survivors contacted, 10 enrolled. All 10 patients completed the virtual study visits and the majority (>50 %) of prescribed training sessions. Ninety percent reported good scores for intervention acceptability and feasibility, and 80 % reported good scores for its appropriateness and usability for reducing fear. Trait anxiety decreased significantly pre-to-post intervention. There were no changes in negative affect, interoceptive fear, or resting state HRV. Conclusion: A remotely delivered HRVB intervention was acceptable, feasible, and useable for cardiac patients with CA-related psychological distress. A phase 2 randomized controlled trial evaluating the efficacy of HRVB on cardiac patients’ psychological distress, health behaviors, and autonomic dysfunction may be warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101251
JournalContemporary Clinical Trials Communications
StatePublished - Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiac arrest
  • Feasibility
  • Heart rate variability biofeedback
  • Psychological distress


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