Cardiac positron emission tomography imaging with [11C]hydroxyephedrine, a specific tracer for sympathetic nerve endings, and its functional correlates in congestive heart failure

Am J Cardiol. 1999 Sep 1;84(5):568-74. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9149(99)00379-3.


The integrative mechanisms of autonomic dysfunction in congestive heart failure (CHF) remain poorly understood. We sought to study cardiac retention of [11C]hydroxyephedrine (HED), a specific tracer for sympathetic presynaptic innervation, and its functional correlates in CHF. Thirty patients with mild to moderate heart failure underwent resting cardiac HED positron emission tomography imaging, spectrum analysis testing of systolic pressure and heart rate variability in the resting supine and 70 degrees head-up tilt positions, and testing of baroreflex sensitivity. Compared with control subjects, global myocardial HED retention index was reduced by 30% (p <0.01) in patients with CHF. The HED retention index did not correlate significantly with heart rate variability. However, it correlated with baroreflex sensitivity at rest (r = 0.43, p = 0.05) and with systolic pressure low-frequency (0.03 to 0.15 Hz) variability at head-up tilt (r = 0.76, p <0.01), as well as with low-frequency systolic pressure variability response from baseline to tilt (r = 0.75, p <0.01). We conclude that cardiac HED retention is reduced in patients with CHF. This correlates with blunted vascular sympathetic effector responses during posture-induced reflex activation and baroreflex control of heart rate, suggesting an interdependence between cardiac presynaptic innervation abnormalities and neural mechanisms important to blood pressure maintenance in CHF.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Coronary Circulation / physiology
  • Ephedrine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Female
  • Heart / diagnostic imaging
  • Heart / innervation*
  • Heart Failure / diagnostic imaging*
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Endings / diagnostic imaging
  • Nerve Endings / physiopathology
  • Norepinephrine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Pressoreceptors / physiopathology
  • Reference Values
  • Reflex / physiology
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / diagnostic imaging*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Sympathomimetics*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*


  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Sympathomimetics
  • Ephedrine
  • Norepinephrine