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Autonomic Control of Cardiac Arrhythmia

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Cardiac Arrhythmias

Abstract

The autonomic nervous system controls virtually all aspects of bodily function, and this is perfectly illustrated in the control of the heart. The autonomic nervous system is not only responsible for the “flight and fight” response but is also important for the instantaneous beat-to-beat control of cardiac function. This fine control is vital because the heart is a highly sophisticated organ, and management by both sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions helps maintain cardiac function within physiological limits. Equally, the autonomic nervous system has a significant impact in pathology. Abnormal autonomic control is a hallmark in many cardiac diseases which may actually precipitate and maintain cardiac dysfunction. An important example of the way by which activity of the autonomic nervous system affects the heart is the influence on cardiac rhythm. In this chapter we focus on two major cardiac arrhythmias, namely, atrial and ventricular fibrillations, which not only carry the most significant burden in clinical practice but also the highest risk of fatality and morbidity. Both of these arrhythmias are intimately associated with the autonomic nervous system and provide a perfect example of complex and heterogeneous control. Our understanding in this fascinating area of autonomic cardiac control is key to the development of successful treatment for these important conditions.

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Correspondence to G. André Ng MBChB, PhD, FRCP(Glasg), FRCP, FESC .

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Brack, K.E., Ng, G.A. (2014). Autonomic Control of Cardiac Arrhythmia. In: Kibos, A., Knight, B., Essebag, V., Fishberger, S., Slevin, M., Țintoiu, I. (eds) Cardiac Arrhythmias. Springer, London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4471-5316-0_5

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