In order to elucidate the influence of autonomic nervous system on atrial electrophysiologic properties, we studied 10 patients with sinus node dysfunction and 10 age-matched normal subjects. In each of them effective and functional refractory periods of the right atrium (near its junction with the superior caval vein) were measured, during atrial pacing (100/min) and using variable current strengths (2, 3, 4, 5, 7,1 0, and 15 mA), before and after pharmacologic autonomic blockade (using intravenous propranolol 0.2 mg/kg and atropine 0.04 mg/kg). Mean values of effective and functional refractory periods at each current strength were significantly higher in patients with sinus node disease than in normal subjects both before and after autonomic blockade. Blockade did not significantly modify mean values of effective and functional refractory periods at any current strength, either in patients with sinus node disease or in normal subjects. Furthermore, autonomic blockade did not change the effects of the increase of current strength on atrial refractoriness in either group. We conclude that our data indicate a prolonged refractoriness to be present in patients with sinus node disease even in the absence of influences from the autonomic nervous system. Thus, we can suggest a "primary" involvement of atrial fibers in this pathophysiological condition. Propranolol together with atropine did not induce changes of atrial refractoriness. Indeed, they probably exerted an opposite effect. The effects of the increase of current strength on atrial excitability do not seem to be mediated by autonomic humoral agents.
- current strength
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine