Cardiology in the Young

Original Manuscripts

Evidence for time-dependent autonomic cardiac reinnervation in children subsequent to transplantation of the heart

Joachim Kreudera1 c1, Heinrich Netza1, Thomas Paula1, Andreas Müllera1, Jürgen Bauera1 and Reinald Reppa1

a1 From the Departments of Pediatric Cardiology, Justus-Liebig University, Giessen, Ludwig-Maximilians University, München and University Medical School, Hannover


Autonomic denervation has been assumed to persist after orthotopic heart transplantation. Analyzing spontaneous and induced variations of heart rate, the status of autonomic cardiac innervation was investigated in six children 19–37 months after cardiac transplantation. The age at the time of transplantation varied from three weeks to 15.4 years. Heart rate variability was assessed on 24-hour Holter recordings by calculating time-domain indices (standard deviation of all RR intervals; standard deviation of the mean RR intervals from successive five-minute periods; mean of the standard deviations of RR intervals from successive five-minute periods; proportion of adjacent RR intervals > 50 msec different; square root of mean square successive differences in RR intervals) and frequency-domain variables (low frequency power, high frequency power and total spectrum power). Sinus node recovery time, sinoatrial conduction time and post-pacing cycle lengths were examined at different rates of endocardial atrial pacing. After the first year subsequent to transplantation, standard deviation of the mean RR intervals reached the normal range in four patients, whereas the other time-domain variables became normal in two patients. Both patients displayed normal or near-normal power spectrums of heart rate with normal day-to-night variations. For the remaining patients, spectrums of heart rate failed to show the main frequency peaks. Only the patient with normal variability in heart rate exhibited a decrease in corrected sinus node recovery time at higher stimulation rates, shortening of the first recovery cycle below the pre-pacing level, and a rapid decline of the accelerated post-pacing heart rate as described in innervated hearts. These results suggest the evolution of time-dependent efferent autonomic reinnervation after cardiac transplantation in children.

(Accepted June 30 1995)


c1 Dr. Joachim Kreuder, Children's Hospital, Justus-Liebig University, Feulgenstraße 12, D-35385 Giessen, Germany. Tel. 49 641 702 4400; Fax. 49 641 702 4489.