Impairment of autonomically mediated heart rate control in patients with cardiac dysfunction.
Patients with cardiac disorders have defective parasympathetic control of heart rate. To evaluate the possibility of similar changes in sympathetic control of heart rate, we compared reflex chronotropic responses to 80 degree upright tilt and nitroglycerin-induced hypotension in 31 cardiac patients and 7 normal individuals before and after partial parasympathetic blockade with atropine. Tilting revealed an attenuation of the normal heart rate increase in patients; the magnitude of this defect was greatest in patients with more severe symptoms (class III) and evidence of left ventricular dysfunction (the heart rate increase averaged 25 plus or minus 3 beats/min in normal subjects, 12 plus or minus 2 beats/min in class I-II patients, and 7 plus or minus 1 beats/min in class III patients). Class III symptoms due to mechanical causes (mitral stenosis), however, were not associated with this defect. A marked reduction in heart rate rise with hypotension was seen only in those class III patients without mitral stenosis (0.4 plus or minus 0.1 beats min-minus 1 mm Hg-minus 1 vs. 3.0 plus or minus 0.5 beats min-minus 1 mm Hg-minus 1 in normal subjects). This abnormality also persisted after atropine administration, thus confirming a defect in the sympathetic as well as the parasympathetic component of baroreceptor-mediated reflex heart rate control in patients with cardiac dysfunction. Infusions of isoproterenol produced equivalent rises in heart rate in patients and normal individuals, excluding a reduction in beta-receptor responsiveness as a cause of impaired sympathetic influence. Norepinephrine depletion, however, is a well-recognized concomitant of cardiac failure. It is possible that the reduction in sympathetically mediated heart rate responses results in part from depletion of the sympathetic neurotransmitter.
- Copyright © 1975 by American Heart Association