Insights Into the Effects of Low-Level Vagus Nerve Stimulation on Atrial Electrophysiology: Towards Patient-Tailored Cardiac Neuromodulation

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Abstract

Background: 

Low-level vagus nerve stimulation through the tragus (tLLVNS) is increasingly acknowledged as a therapeutic strategy to prevent and treat atrial fibrillation. However, a lack in understanding of the exact antiarrhythmic properties of tLLVNS has hampered clinical implementation. 

Objectives:

In this study, the authors aimed to study the effects of tLLVNS on atrial electrophysiology by performing intraoperative epicardial mapping during acute and chronic tLLVNS. 

Methods: 

Epicardial mapping of the superior right atrium was performed before and after arterial graft harvesting in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting without a history of atrial fibrillation. The time needed for arterial graft harvesting was used to perform chronic tLLVNS. Electrophysiological properties were compared before and during chronic tLLVNS. 

Results: 

A total of 10 patients (median age 74 years [IQR: 69-78 years]) underwent tLLVNS for a duration of 56 minutes (IQR: 43-73 minutes). During acute and chronic tLLVNS, a shift of the sinoatrial node exit site toward a more cranial direction was observed in 5 (50%) patients. Unipolar potential voltage increased significantly during acute and chronic tLLVNS (3.9 mV [IQR: 3.1-4.8 mV] vs 4.7 mV [IQR: 4.0-5.3 mV] vs 5.2 mV [IQR: 4.8-7.0 mV]; P = 0.027, P = 0.02, respectively). Total activation time, slope of unipolar potentials, amount of fractionation, low-voltage areas and conduction velocity did not differ significantly between baseline measurements and tLLVNS. Two patients showed consistent “improvement” of all electrophysiological properties during tLLVNS, while 1 patient appeared to have no beneficial effect. 

Conclusions: 

We demonstrated that tLLVNS resulted in a significant increase in unipolar potential voltage. In addition, we observed the following in selective patients: 1) reduction in total activation time; 2) steeper slope of unipolar potentials; 3) decrease in the amount of fractionation; and 4) change in sinoatrial node exit sites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1843-1853
Number of pages11
JournalJACC: Clinical Electrophysiology
Volume9
Issue number9
Early online date19 Jul 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American College of Cardiology Foundation

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