Skip to content


  • Poster presentation
  • Open Access

Homeodynamic complexity: multifractal analysis of physiological instability

  • 1,
  • 1,
  • 1,
  • 1 and
  • 1
Critical Care201216 (Suppl 1) :P229

  • Published:


  • Mean Arterial Pressure
  • Fractal Geometry
  • Modulus Maximum
  • Multifractal Analysis
  • Multifractal Spectrum


Physiological instability is a common clinical problem in the critically ill. Physiological adaptation can be regarded as a dynamic process, with stability being conferred by a number of apparently complex, fluctuating homeokinetic processes [1]. Many natural systems are nonlinear, and seemingly random fluctuations may result as a consequence of their underlying dynamics. Fractal geometry offers a method to characterize the underlying nonlinear state, providing a technique for monitoring complex physiology in real time, which may be of clinical importance.


We employ the wavelet modulus maxima technique to characterize the multifractal properties of physiological time series such as heart rate (HR) and mean arterial pressure (MAP) under conditions of clinical physiological instability. We calculated point estimates for the dominant Hölder exponent (hm) and multifractal spectrum width-at-half-height (WHH). We investigated how these parameters changed with pharmacological interventions such as vasoconstriction.


Hypotensive patients showed lower values of hm for MAP, consistent with a more highly fluctuating, antipersistent and complex behavior. Blood pressure support with pharmacological vasoconstriction led to a transient increase in hm for MAP (Figure 1) revealing the appearance of longer-range correlations, but did not affect hm as estimated for HR. On the other hand, supporting the heart rate with atropine had no effect on hm for MAP, but did tend to increase hm for HR.
Figure 1
Figure 1

abstract P229


We demonstrate increasing signal complexity under physiological challenge consistent with the activation of homeokinetic processes. Differential fractal behavior for HR and MAP suggests that the homeokinetic systems are recruited in a targeted way depending on the physiological challenge. Pharmacological restoration of homeostasis leads to system decomplexification suggesting that homeokinetic mechanisms are derecruited as physiology is restored. We suggest fractal geometry provides a method for characterizing physiological instability and measuring the homeokinetic stress response during physiological challenges.

Authors’ Affiliations

University of Cambridge, UK


  1. Goldberger AL, Amaral LAN, Hausdorff JM, Ivanov PC, Peng C-K, Stanley HE: Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2002, 99: 2466-2472. 10.1073/pnas.012579499PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar


© Ercole et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2012

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.