Autonomic nervous system, myocardial ischemia, and malignant ventricular arrhythmias: Experimental findings

  • G. M. De Ferrari
  • P. J. Schwartz


Acute myocardial ischemia elicits both sympathetic and vagal reflexes. Dominant sympathetic reflexes cause an increase in heart rate, myocardial oxygen consumption and a decrease in cardiac electrical stability, thus facilitating the occurrence of malignant arrhythmias. On the other hand, recent evidence from experimental studies suggests that increased vagal activity during acute myocardial ischemia decreases the likelihood of ventricular fibrillation. In a conscious animal model of sudden cardiac death, indexes of reduced vagal tone and of impaired vagal reflexes identify dogs at higher risk for ventricular fibrillation during acute myocardial ischemia.

A further direct indication that vagal activity is indeed beneficial during myocardial ischemia derives from studies involving either neural recording of vagal activity or an interaction with the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter were achieved either electrically, by the stimulation of the vagus, or pharmacologically by muscarinic agonists and antagonists.

These experimental studies indicate that: 1) indexes of vagal tone and reflexes may help to identify subjects at higher risk for sudden cardiac death; 2) interference with the autonomic nervous system causing a shift toward a vagal dominance may represent a new strategy in the prevention of sudden cardiac death.


Sudden Cardiac Death Ventricular Fibrillation Vagal Stimulation Vagal Tone Vagal Activity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Dr. Dietrich Steinkopff Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Darmstadt 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. M. De Ferrari
    • 1
    • 2
  • P. J. Schwartz
    • 3
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Istituto di Clinica Medica Generale e Terapia Medica Universita’ degli Studi di MilanoCentro di Fisiologia Clinica e IpertensioneMilanoItaly
  2. 2.Divisione di CardiologiaOspedale Maggiore Policlinico IRCCS MilanoItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento di MedicinaUniversita’ degli Studi PaviaPaviaItaly
  4. 4.Istituto di Clinica Medica Generale e Terapia MedicaUniversity of MilanoMilanoItaly

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