OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effect of acute cardiac sympathectomy by thoracic epidural anesthesia on myocardial blood flow and microvascular function.
DESIGN: A prospective observational study.
SETTING: The study was conducted in a tertiary teaching hospital.
PARTICIPANTS: Ten patients with a mean age of 48 years (range 22-63 years) scheduled for thoracic surgery.
INTERVENTIONS: Myocardial contrast echocardiography was used to study myocardial blood flow and microvascular responsiveness at rest, during adenosine-induced hyperemia, and after sympathetic stimulation by the cold pressor test. Repeated measurements were performed without and with thoracic epidural anesthesia.
MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: An increased myocardial blood volume was observed with thoracic epidural anesthesia compared to baseline (from 0.08±0.02 to 0.10±0.03 mL/mL; p = 0.02). No difference existed in resting myocardial blood flow between baseline conditions and epidural anesthesia (0.85±0.24 v 1.03±0.27 mL/min/g, respectively). Hyperemia during thoracic epidural anesthesia increased myocardial blood flow to 4.31±1.07 mL/min/g (p = 0.0008 v baseline) and blood volume to 0.17±0.04 mL/mL (p = 0.005 baseline). After sympathetic stimulation, no difference in myocardial blood flow parameters was observed CONCLUSIONS: Acute cardiac sympathectomy by thoracic epidural anesthesia increased the blood volume in the myocardial capillary system. Also, thoracic epidural anesthesia increased hyperemic myocardial blood flow, indicating augmented endothelial-independent vasodilator capacity of the myocardium.