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Vagal control of cardiac electrical activity and wall motion during ventricular fibrillation in large animals

Autonomic Neuroscience
DOI: 10.1016/j.autneu.2014.01.009
  • Vagus Nerve Stimulation
  • Arrhythmia
  • Cardiac Conduction
  • Echocardiography
  • Asystole


Abstract Vagal inputs control pacemaking and conduction systems in the heart. Anatomical evidence suggests a direct ventricular action, but functional evidence that separates direct and indirect (via the conduction system) vagal actions is less well established. We studied vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) during sinus rhythm and ventricular fibrillation (VF) in pigs and sheep to determine: 1) the range of unilateral and bilateral actions (inotropic and chronotropic) and 2) whether VNS alters left ventricular motion and/or electrical activity during VF, a model of abnormal electrical conduction of the left ventricle that excludes sinus and atrioventricular nodal function. Adult pigs (N=8) and sheep (N=10) were anesthetized with urethane and mechanically ventilated. VNS was performed in animals at 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100Hz for 20s. VF was induced with direct current to the ventricles or occlusion of the left anterior descending coronary artery. In 4 pigs and 3 sheep, left ventricular wall motion was assessed from endocardial excursion in epicardial echocardiography. In sheep and pigs, the best frequency among those tested for VNS during sinus rhythm to produce sustained electrical and mechanical ventricular standstill was 50Hz for unilateral or bilateral stimulation. When applied during VF, bilateral VNS increased the variability of the dominant VF frequency, indicating a direct impact on the excitability of ventricular myocytes, and decreased endocardial excursion by more than 50% during VF. We conclude that the vagus nerve directly modulates left ventricular function independently from its effects on the conduction system.

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