Effects of thoracic spinal cord stimulation on cardiac autonomic regulation of the sinus and atrioventricular nodes

Jeffrey E. Olgin, Tamana Takahashi, Emily Wilson, Andras Vereckei, Helmut Steinberg, Douglas P. Zipes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Introduction: Thoracic spinal cord stimulation (SCS) has been used to treat angina pectoris and to produce cardiac autonomic control. We studied the effect of thoracic SCS on sinus node and AV nodal function to test the hypothesis that SCS modulated autonomic regulation of the electrophysiology of these structures. Methods and Results: The effects of thoracic SCS on sinus cycle length and AH interval were studied in 47 dogs in five experimental groups: group 1: intact autonomic nerves; group 2: bilateral ansae subclaviae transection and efferent stellate stimulation; group 3: ansae transection, bilateral vagi transection, and efferent stellate stimulation; group 4: bilateral vagi transection and efferent vagal stimulation; and group 5: bilateral vagal stimulation and bilateral ansae subclaviae transection. Under fluoroscopic guidance, the spinal stimulator electrode was advanced to the T1-T2 position and threshold determined by adjusting the output to produce muscle contraction. Parameters were measured at baseline prior to SCS and during SCS, at 90% threshold. Ansae subclaviae and vagi nerves were isolated using standard approaches. Stellate and vagal stimulation were each performed using a constant current stimulator and at three different frequencies. Sinus cycle length and AH intervals (the latter at constant right atrial pacing of 400 msec) were measured with and without SCS at baseline and at each level of nerve stimulation. Nitric oxide was measured using the coronary sinus overflow method, from a luminal balloon catheter placed deep in the coronary sinus. SCS resulted in an increase in sinus cycle length from 507 ± 23 msec to 544 ± 22 msec (P = 0.02) and AH interval from 71 ± 4 msec to 74 ± 4 msec (P = 0.03). Ansae subclaviae transection had no effect on this increase, while vagal transection eliminated the increase in sinus cycle length and AH with SCS. The increase in these parameters with SCS was maintained during both stellate stimulation (group 2) and vagal stimulation (group 5) across all three levels of neural stimulation. Conclusion: SCS appears to enhance parasympathetic activity, mediated via the vagus. This may have implications for use of thoracic SCS to treat chronic angina and perhaps prevent sudden cardiac death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)475-481
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of cardiovascular electrophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002


  • Atrioventricular node
  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Sinus node
  • Spinal cord stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology

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