Adenosine: Potential modulator for vasovagal syncope

Win Kuang Shen, Stephen C. Hammill, Thomas M. Munger, Marshall S. Stanton, Douglas L. Packer, Michael J. Osborn, Douglas L. Wood, Kent R. Bailey, Phillip A. Low, Bernard J. Gersh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study examined the hypothesis that adenosine could provoke a vasovagal response in susceptible patients. Mechanisms of the vasovagal response were further explored by studying the adenosine-mediated reactions. Background. Increased sympathetic activity is frequently observed before vasovagal syncope. Recent studies have demonstrated that adenosine, in addition to its direct bradycardiac and vasodilatory effects, can increase sympathetic discharge by activating cardiovascular afferent nerves. Methods. The effects of adenosine and head-up tilt-table testing with or without isoproterenol were prospectively evaluated in 85 patients examined for syncope after negative results of electrophysiologic testing (51 men and 34 women, mean [± SD] age 61 ± 17 years). Adenosine bolus injections of 6 mg and 12 mg were sequentially administered to patients in the upright position. The same protocol was implemented in 14 normal control subjects (7 men and 7 women, mean [±SD] age 38 ± 10 years). Results. Transient hypertension or tachycardia was observed in 57 (67%) and 20 (24%) patients after administration of 6 mg and 12 mg of adenosine, respectively, during the immediate phase (first 15 s), suggesting direct sympathetic activation. Hypotension and reflex tachycardia were observed in all patients during the delayed phase (15 to 60 s after adenosine injection), suggesting baroreceptor unloading. A vasovagal response was induced in 22 (26%) and 29 (34%) patients after adenosine administration and during tilt-table testing. Inducibility of a vasovagal response by these two methods was comparable (p = 0.12). Of the control subjects, one (7%) had a vasovagal response after adenosine administration and one (7%) had a positive response during tilt- table testing. Conclusions. These observations support the idea that adenosine is an endogenous modulator of the cardiac excitatory afferent nerves. Sympathetic activation by adenosine can be direct (i.e., cardiac excitatory afferent nerves) and indirect (i.e., vasodilation and reflex sympathetic activation). Adenosine could be an important modulator in triggering a vasovagal response in susceptible patients during examination for syncope.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-154
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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