Background: Cardiac and systemic autonomic nervous function may be impaired in patients with COPD. Few reports, however, have described sympathetic nervous function of the left ventricle (LV) in COPD patients.
Study objective: To assess the LV sympathetic nervous function in patients with COPD using (123)I-metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) imaging of the heart.
Design: Prospective comparison of (123)I-MIBG imaging results in COPD patients and normal subjects.
Participants: Twenty-eight patients with COPD without manifest right ventricular overload and 7 volunteers without cardiopulmonary disease (control subjects).
Measurements: (123)I-MIBG imaging results and plasma norepinephrine concentration were compared between the COPD and control groups. In the COPD group, pulmonary function tests were performed and all subjects were interviewed about their symptoms.
Results: (123)I-MIBG uptake, assessed as the cardiac to mediastinal activity ratio in the delayed image, was significantly lower in the COPD group than in the control group (p < 0.05). (123)I-MIBG turnover, expressed as the washout rate (WR) of (123)I-MIBG from 15 to 240 min, was significantly higher in the COPD group than in the control group (p < 0.01). In the COPD group, patients with dyspnea showed lower cardiac to mediastinal activity ratios and higher WRs compared with patients who had mild dyspnea. The WR correlated negatively with the vital capacity/predicted value ratio, correlated negatively with the maximal voluntary ventilation volume/predicted value ratio, and correlated positively with the residual volume/total lung capacity ratio in the COPD group. The plasma norepinephrine concentration in COPD patients was higher than that in the control subjects.
Conclusion: Patients with COPD have significant sympathetic nervous impairment of the LV myocardium as a result of generalized sympathetic overactivity.