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      Chronic vagal stimulation for the treatment of low ejection fraction heart failure: results of the NEural Cardiac TherApy foR Heart Failure (NECTAR-HF) randomized controlled trial


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          The neural cardiac therapy for heart failure (NECTAR-HF) was a randomized sham-controlled trial designed to evaluate whether a single dose of vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) would attenuate cardiac remodelling, improve cardiac function and increase exercise capacity in symptomatic heart failure patients with severe left ventricular (LV) systolic dysfunction despite guideline recommended medical therapy.


          Patients were randomized in a 2 : 1 ratio to receive therapy (VNS ON) or control (VNS OFF) for a 6-month period. The primary endpoint was the change in LV end systolic diameter (LVESD) at 6 months for control vs. therapy, with secondary endpoints of other echocardiography measurements, exercise capacity, quality-of-life assessments, 24-h Holter, and circulating biomarkers.


          Of the 96 implanted patients, 87 had paired datasets for the primary endpoint. Change in LVESD from baseline to 6 months was −0.04 ± 0.25 cm in the therapy group compared with −0.08 ± 0.32 cm in the control group ( P = 0.60). Additional echocardiographic parameters of LV end diastolic dimension, LV end systolic volume, left ventricular end diastolic volume, LV ejection fraction, peak V0 2, and N-terminal pro-hormone brain natriuretic peptide failed to show superiority compared to the control group. However, there were statistically significant improvements in quality of life for the Minnesota Living with Heart Failure Questionnaire ( P = 0.049), New York Heart Association class ( P = 0.032), and the SF-36 Physical Component ( P = 0.016) in the therapy group.


          Vagal nerve stimulation as delivered in the NECTAR-HF trial failed to demonstrate a significant effect on primary and secondary endpoint measures of cardiac remodelling and functional capacity in symptomatic heart failure patients, but quality-of-life measures showed significant improvement.

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          Vagal nerve stimulation markedly improves long-term survival after chronic heart failure in rats.

          Diminished cardiac vagal activity and higher heart rate predict a high mortality rate of chronic heart failure (CHF) after myocardial infarction. We investigated the effects of chronic electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve on cardiac remodeling and long-term survival in an animal model of CHF after large myocardial infarction. Two weeks after the ligation of the left coronary artery, surviving rats were randomized to vagal- and sham-stimulated groups. Using an implantable miniature radio-controlled electrical stimulator, we stimulated the right vagal nerve of CHF rats for 6 weeks. The intensity of electrical stimulation was adjusted for each rat, so that the heart rate was lowered by 20 to 30 beats per minute. The treated rats had significantly lower left ventricular end-diastolic pressure (17.1+/-5.9 versus 23.5+/-4.2 mm Hg, P<0.05) and higher maximum dp/dt of left ventricular pressure (4152+/-237 versus 2987+/-192 mm Hg/s, P<0.05) than the untreated rats. Improvement of cardiac pumping function was accompanied by a decrease in normalized biventricular weight (2.75+/-0.25 versus 3.14+/-0.22 g/kg, P<0.01). Although the 140-day survival of the untreated group was only half, vagal stimulation markedly improved the survival rate (86% versus 50%, P=0.008). Vagal stimulation therapy achieved a 73% reduction in a relative risk ratio of death. Vagal nerve stimulation markedly improved the long-term survival of CHF rats through the prevention of pumping failure and cardiac remodeling.
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            Pharmacological Stimulation of the Cholinergic Antiinflammatory Pathway

            Efferent activity in the vagus nerve can prevent endotoxin-induced shock by attenuating tumor necrosis factor (TNF) synthesis. Termed the “cholinergic antiinflammatory pathway,” inhibition of TNF synthesis is dependent on nicotinic α-bungarotoxin-sensitive acetylcholine receptors on macrophages. Vagus nerve firing is also stimulated by CNI-1493, a tetravalent guanylhydrazone molecule that inhibits systemic inflammation. Here, we studied the effects of pharmacological and electrical stimulation of the intact vagus nerve in adult male Lewis rats subjected to endotoxin-induced shock to determine whether intact vagus nerve signaling is required for the antiinflammatory action of CNI-1493. CNI-1493 administered via the intracerebroventricular route was 100,000-fold more effective in suppressing endotoxin-induced TNF release and shock as compared with intravenous dosing. Surgical or chemical vagotomy rendered animals sensitive to TNF release and shock, despite treatment with CNI-1493, indicating that an intact cholinergic antiinflammatory pathway is required for antiinflammatory efficacy in vivo. Electrical stimulation of either the right or left intact vagus nerve conferred significant protection against endotoxin-induced shock, and specifically attenuated serum and myocardial TNF, but not pulmonary TNF synthesis, as compared with sham-operated animals. Together, these results indicate that stimulation of the cholinergic antiinflammatory pathway by either pharmacological or electrical methods can attenuate the systemic inflammatory response to endotoxin-induced shock.
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              Depressed heart rate variability as an independent predictor of death in chronic congestive heart failure secondary to ischemic or idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy.

              After acute myocardial infarction, depressed heart rate variability (HRV) has been proven to be a powerful independent predictor of a poor outcome. Although patients with chronic congestive heart failure (CHF) have also markedly impaired HRV, the prognostic value of HRV analysis in these patients remains unknown. The aim of this study was to investigate whether HRV parameters could predict survival in 102 consecutive patients with moderate to severe CHF (90 men, mean age 58 years, New York Heart Association [NYHA] class II to IV, CHF due to idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy in 24 patients and ischemic heart disease in 78 patients, ejection fraction [EF], 26%; peak oxygen consumption, 16.9 ml/kg/min) after exclusion of patients in atrial fibrilation with diabetes or with chronic renal failure. In the prognostic analysis (Cox proportional-hazards model, Kaplan-Meier survival analysis), the following factors were investigated: age, CHF etiology, NYHA class, EF, peak oxygen consumption, presence of ventricular tachycardia on Holter monitoring, and HRV measures derived from 24-hour electrocardiography monitoring, calculated in the time (standard deviation of all normal RR intervals [SDNN], standard deviation of 5-minute RR intervals [SDANN], mean of all 5-minute standard deviations of RR intervals [SD], root-mean-square of difference of successive RR intervals [rMSSD], and percentage of adjacent RR intervals >50 ms different [pNN50]) and frequency domain (total power [TP], power within low-frequency band [LF], and power within high-frequency band [HF]). During follow-up of 584 +/- 405 days (365 days in all who survived), 19 patients (19%) died (mean time to death: 307 +/- 315 days, range 3 to 989). Cox's univariate analysis identified the following factors to be predictors of death: NYHA (p = 0.003), peak oxygen consumption (p = 0.01), EF (p = 0.02), ventricular tachycardia on Holter monitoring (p = 0.05), and among HRV measures: SDNN (p = 0.004), SDANN (p = 0.003), SD (p = 0.02), and LF (p = 0.003). In multivariate analysis, HRV parameters (SDNN, SDANN, LF) were found to predict survival independently of NYHA functional class, EF, peak oxygen consumption, and ventricular tachycardia on Holter monitoring. The Kaplan-Meier survival curves revealed SDNN 100 ms (p = 0.008). The coexistence of SDNN < 100 ms and a peak oxygen consumption < 14 ml/kg/min allowed identification of a group of 18 patients with a particularly poor prognosis (1-year survival 63% vs 94% in the remaining patients, p <0.001). We conclude that depressed HRV on 24-hour ambulatory electrocardiography monitoring is an independent risk factor for a poor prognosis in patients with CHF. Whether analysis of HRV could be recommended in the risk stratification for better management of patients with CHF needs further investigation.

                Author and article information

                Eur Heart J
                Eur. Heart J
                European Heart Journal
                Oxford University Press
                14 February 2015
                31 August 2014
                31 August 2014
                : 36
                : 7 , Focus Issue on Heart Failure
                : 425-433
                [1 ]Inserm, CIC 1433, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire, Department of Cardiology, Nancy University, Université de Lorraine, Nancy, France
                [2 ]Department of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Clinical Research Center, Fondazione IRCCS, Policlinico San Matteo, Pavia, Italy
                [3 ]Department of Cardiology, University Medical Center, Utrecht, The Netherlands
                [4 ]Department of Cardiology, Liverpool Heart and Chest, Liverpool, UK
                [5 ]Thorax Institute, Hospital Clinic, Barcelona, Spain
                [6 ]Heart Centre Brandenburg Hospital, Bernau, Germany
                [7 ]Division of Cardiology, Otto-von-Guericke Universität Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany
                [8 ]Boston Scientific Corporation, St. Paul, MN, USA
                [9 ]Guidant Europe, Diegem, Belgium
                [10 ]Department of Cardiology, Homolka Hospital, Prague, Czech Republic
                [11 ]Department of Cardiology, Catharina Hospital, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
                [12 ]Azienda Ospedaliera dei Colli – Monaldi, Napoli, Italy
                [13 ]Cardiovascular Division, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author: Centre d'Investigation Clinique, Institut Lorrain du Coeur et des Vaisseaux, CHU de Brabois, 54500 Vandoeuvre, France. Tel. +33 383656625, Fax: +33 383656619, Email: f.zannad@ 123456chu-nancy.fr
                © The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Cardiology.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact journals.permissions@oup.com

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