Regional differences in sympathetic reinnervation after human orthotopic cardiac transplantation

Robert F. Wilson, David D Laxson, Betsy V. Christensen, Andrew L. McGinn, Spencer H Kubo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Background. In the majority of humans ≥1 year after cardiac transplantation, cardiac norepinephrine (NE) stores reappear, suggesting late sympathetic reinnervation. Methods and Results. To determine whether there are regional differences in reinnervation, we measured markers of sympathetic reinnervation of the sinus node (SN) and left ventricle (LV) in five early transplant recipients (≤4 months after cardiac transplantation), 45 late transplant recipients (≥1 year after cardiac transplantation), and seven normally innervated control patients. SN reinnervation was defined as an increase in heart rate by more than five beats per minute after injection of tyramine into the artery supplying the SN. LV reinnervation was defined as a measurable LV NE release after left main coronary injection of 8 μg/kg tyramine. In 13 patients with previously known LV reinnervation, regional LV reinnervation was assessed by NE release after subselective injection of tyramine (4 μg/kg) into the proximal left anterior descending and circumflex arteries. Five of five patients ≤4 months after cardiac transplantation had no change in heart rate and no LV NE release, confirming early, total denervation. In contrast, ≥1 year after cardiac transplantation, tyramine caused a heart rate increase (eight to 49 beats per minute) in 32 of 45 patients and LV NE release in 33 of 45. Although LV NE release was correlated with the change in heart rate in late cardiac transplantation recipients (r=.61), eight of 45 had only heart rate response, nine had only LV NE release, and four had neither. In late cardiac transplantation recipients with LV reinnervation, tyramine caused NE release from both the anterior descending and circumflex perfusion fields in 10 of 14, but one of 14 patients released NE only after circumflex tyramine and three of 14 only after left anterior descending tyramine stimulation. Tyramine caused a marked heart rate increase and LV NE release in all control patients. Conclusions. Sympathetic reinnervation after cardiac transplantation is regionally heterogeneous. SN reinnervation is not associated necessarily with LV reinnervation, and LV reinnervation can involve the anterior and posterior walls together or separately.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-171
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1993


  • Cardiac transplantation
  • Sympathetic reinnervation


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