Cardiac sympathetic dysfunction in pulmonary arterial hypertension: lesson from left-sided heart failure

Sympathetic nervous system hyperactivity has a well-recognized role in the pathophysiology of heart failure with reduced left ventricular ejection fraction. Alterations in sympathetic nervous system have been related to the pathophysiology of pulmonary arterial hypertension, but it is unclear whether cardiac sympathetic nervous system is impaired and how sympathetic dysfunction correlates with hemodynamics and clinical status in pulmonary arterial hypertension patients. The aim of this study was to evaluate the cardiac sympathetic nervous system activity by means of 123Iodine-metaiodobenzylguanidine nuclear imaging in pulmonary arterial hypertension patients and to explore its possible correlation with markers of disease severity. Twelve consecutive pulmonary arterial hypertension patients (nine women, median age 56.5 (17.8), eight idiopathic and four connective tissue-associated pulmonary arterial hypertension) underwent cardiac 123Iodine-metaiodobenzylguanidine scintigraphy. The results were compared with those of 12 subjects with a negative history of cardiovascular or pulmonary disease who underwent the same nuclear imaging test because of a suspected paraganglioma or pheochromocytoma, with a negative result (controls), and 12 patients with heart failure with reduced left ventricular ejection fraction. Hemodynamics, echocardiography, six-minute walking distance, cardiopulmonary exercise testing, and N-terminal pro brain natriuretic peptide were collected in pulmonary arterial hypertension patients within one week from 123Iodine-metaiodobenzylguanidine scintigraphy. Cardiac 123Iodine-metaiodobenzylguanidine uptake, assessed as early and late heart-to-mediastinum ratio, was significantly lower in pulmonary arterial hypertension compared to controls (p = 0.001), but similar to heart failure with reduced left ventricular ejection fraction. Myocardial 123Iodine-metaiodobenzylguanidine turnover, expressed as washout rate, was similar in pulmonary arterial hypertension and heart failure with reduced left ventricular ejection fraction and significantly higher compared to controls (p = 0.016). In the pulmonary arterial hypertension group, both early and late heart-to-mediastinum ratios and washout rate correlated with parameters of pulmonary arterial hypertension severity including pulmonary vascular resistance, right atrial pressure, tricuspid annular plane systolic excursion, N-terminal pro brain natriuretic peptide, and peak VO2. Although we evaluated a small number of subjects, our study showed a significant impairment in cardiac sympathetic nervous system in pulmonary arterial hypertension, similarly to that observed in heart failure with reduced left ventricular ejection fraction. This impairment correlated with indices of pulmonary arterial hypertension severity. Cardiac sympathetic dysfunction may be a contributing factor to the development of right-sided heart failure in pulmonary arterial hypertension.

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Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension


Valentina Mercurio, Teresa Pellegrino, Giorgio Bosso, Giacomo Campi, Paolo Parrella, Valentina Piscopo, Carlo G. Tocchetti, Paul M. Hassoun, Mario Petretta, Alberto Cuocolo, Domenico Bonaduce

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Pulmonary Circulation Vol 9: No 3 cover image

September 2019

Pulmonary Circulation Vol 9: No 3

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