Selective stimulation of parasympathetic nerve fibers to the human sinoatrial node.
BACKGROUND In animals, parasympathetic nerve fibers that innervate the sinoatrial node can be selectively stimulated to increase atrial cycle length. These nerve fibers course through an epicardial fat pad at the margin of the right superior pulmonary vein, the superior vena cava, and the right atrium. We hypothesized that similar nerves exist and can be selectively stimulated in humans.
METHODS AND RESULTS Microscopic examination of fat pads excised from the margin of the right superior pulmonary vein, the superior vena cava, and the right atrium during two human autopsies revealed the presence of nerve fibers and ganglia. We electrically stimulated this epicardial fat pad in 16 patients during cardiac surgery. The fat pads were stimulated with continuous-pulse trains for 15 seconds via a hand-held bipolar electrode using constant current (10-15 mA), constant pulse width (0.02-0.05 msec), and at 6.6, 10, 20, 25, and 30 Hz. The mean atrial cycle length +/- 1 SEM increased from 734 +/- 34 msec at baseline to a maximum of 823 +/- 61 msec at 6.6 Hz, 1,167 +/- 125 msec at 10 Hz, 1,734 +/- 281 msec at 20 Hz, 2,993 +/- 661 msec at 25 Hz, and 2,461 +/- 668 msec at 30 Hz during nerve stimulation. Linear regression analysis showed that the response of atrial cycle length to sinoatrial parasympathetic nerve stimulation was frequency dependent. The maximum response and complete decay of the response occurred within 4-8 seconds of initiation or termination of sinoatrial parasympathetic nerve stimulation. Atrioventricular conduction time and the PR interval did not change during sinoatrial parasympathetic nerve stimulation, even when the atria were paced at the baseline heart rate.
CONCLUSIONS Electrical stimulation of parasympathetic nerve fibers in a fat pad near the sinoatrial node increased atrial cycle length without affecting atrioventricular nodal conduction. This is the first study in which such nerve fibers that innervate the sinoatrial node have been selectively stimulated in humans.
- Copyright © 1992 by American Heart Association