The cardiac mechano- and chemoreceptors are broadly distributed in the myocardium and coronary vessels. A portion of these receptors extends over the epicardium and pericardium and therefore can be excited by mechanical or chemical stimuli directly applied to the surface of the heart. Excitation of epicardial receptors by topical application of chemical compounds elicits a variety of reflex cardiovascular responses, without the vascular or systemic effects of the drug administered systemically. A considerable number of studies has used the epicardial sensory field as a tool to delineate the functional characteristics of the cardiac afferent neurones in normal as well as in pathological conditions. In this review we analyze the cardiovascular reflex responses induced by epicardial application of a variety of substances like bradykinin, nicotine, muscarine, isoprenaline, adenosine, potassium chloride, capsaicin, prostaglandins or substance P in physiological models and also in models with acute myocardial ischemia or heart failure. The data highlight the contribution of the epicardial sensory neurites to the overall control of the cardiovascular system and, on the other hand, strengthen the need for further investigations directed to better elucidate the reflex cardiovascular responses that may develop in patients with pericardial abnormalities. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. © Oxford University Press 2001.
- Autonomic nervous system
- Vasoactive agents