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The Coronary Baroreflex in Humans

Background: Previous studies have identified the presence of coronary baroreceptors in animal models. We set up a study to explore the presence of coronary baroreceptors in humans, which was performed with isolated, graded aortic root perfusion in patients during cardiopulmonary bypass.

Methods: With ethical approval 12 patients with normal coronary arteries, aged 58-75 (mean 69) years undergoing mitral valve surgery were recruited to the study with informed consent. Those with aortic valve incompetence, coronary, or peripheral artery disease and diabetes mellitus were excluded. They were randomized to have their coronary perfusion pressure set low at 50 mmHg for 90 seconds and then adjusted high to 80 mmHg for 90 seconds (group L-H) or the reverse sequence (group H-L). Average arterial pressure and approximately constant systemic flow over 30-second periods were used to calculate vascular resistance (SVR). The first six experiments followed initiation of cardiopulmonary bypass and aortic clamping but before the delivery of cold blood cardioplegia; the blood temperature for these experiments was kept at 32 degrees C. The remaining six were conducted prior to removal of the aortic cross clamp at 37 degrees C. Coronary sinus blood samples were analyzed to exclude myocardial ischemia.

Results: Coronary sinus blood samples showed insignificant variation in oxygen saturation, lactate, and troponin T. Three patients were excluded because of unstable blood pressure. In the (L-H) group SVR reduced in 4 of 4 remaining patients (mean -9.4%, range -3.9 to -19.6%). In the (H-L) group SVR increased in three patients (mean +2.0%, range 1.1 to 3.7%) but decreased in two (-8.9% and -15.8%).

Conclusion: These preliminary results, although not statistically different, suggest the presence of coronary baroreceptors in humans. The reflex vascular responses are similar to those previously reported in animal models.

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