Estimating Sympathetic Tone by Recording Subcutaneous Nerve Activity in Ambulatory Dogs

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We tested the hypothesis that subcutaneous nerve activity (SCNA) of the thorax correlates with the stellate ganglion nerve activity (SGNA) and can be used to estimate the sympathetic tone.

Methods and Results:

We implanted radio transmitters in 11 ambulatory dogs to record left SGNA, left thoracic vagal nerve activity (VNA), and left thoracic SCNA, including 3 with simultaneous video monitoring and nerve recording. Two additional dogs were studied under general anesthesia with apamin injected into the right stellate ganglion while the right SGNA and the right SCNA were recorded. There was a significant positive correlation between integrated SGNA (iSGNA) and integrated SCNA (iSCNA) in the first 7 ambulatory dogs, with correlation coefficient of 0.70 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.61–0.84, P < 0.05 for each dog). Tachycardia episodes (heart rate exceeding 150 bpm for ≥3 seconds) were invariably preceded by SGNA and SCNA. There was circadian variation of both SCNA and SGNA. Crosstalk was ruled out because SGNA, VNA, and SCNA bursts had different timing and activation patterns. In an eighth dog, closely spaced bipolar subcutaneous electrodes also recorded SCNA, but with reduced signal to noise ratio. Video monitoring in additional 3 dogs showed that movement was not a cause of high frequency SCNA. The right SGNA correlated strongly with right SCNA and heart rate in 2 anesthetized dogs after apamin injection into the right stellate ganglion.


SCNA recorded by bipolar subcutaneous electrodes correlates with the SGNA and can be used to estimate the sympathetic tone.

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