A chronic imbalance of the autonomic nervous system(ANS) may contribute to long term complications in different congenital heart diseases. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the ANS plays a role in the long-term outcome of patients with Transposition of great arteries(TGA) after arterial switch operation(ASO) as its contribution is as yet not clear.
The ANS activity was evaluated non-invasively in 26 TGA patients and 52 age-appropriate healthy subjects combining impedance cardiography and electrocardiography. Heart rate, pre-ejection period(sympathetic activity parameter) and respiratory sinus arrhythmia and the root of the mean square of successive normal-to-normal interval differences(parasympathetic activity parameter) were measured during 5 different daily activities(sleep, sitting, active sitting, light and moderate/vigorous physical activity). Whether the ANS activity was related to ventricular function, exercise test performance or clinical outcome in the patient group was also analyzed.
Compared to healthy subjects: heart rate was significantly lower in TGA patients at rest and during quiet and active sitting; sympathetic activity was significantly reduced in patients during physical activity; and the parasympathetic activity was higher in TGA patients while quiet and active sitting. In the patient group a significant positive correlation between 4-chamber longitudinal strain and parasympathetic activity during 3 different daily activities was found.
The sympathetic nervous system response to physical activity is reduced in TGA patients after ASO. Additionally, we observed a positive correlation between better left ventricular function and higher parasympathetic activity that could be in line with the known protective effect of a higher vagal activity.