CAN (cardiac autonomic neuropathy) is a common complication of diabetes. Meta-analyses of published data demonstrate that reduced cardiovascular autonomic function, as measured by heart rate variability, is strongly associated with an increased risk of silent myocardial ischaemia and mortality. A major problem in ischaemia-induced impairment of vascular performance in the diabetic heart is unrecognized cardiac sympathetic dysfunction. Determining the presence of CAN is based on a battery of autonomic function tests and techniques such as SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography) and PET (positron emission tomography). Nevertheless, spectral analysis of heart rate variability seems to remain the primary technique in evaluating CAN, due to its low cost, easy use and good intra-individual reproducibility.