The human heart rate response profiles to five vagal maneuvers

Yale J Biol Med. Jul-Aug 1999;72(4):237-44.


Healthy teens and adults performed four vagotonic maneuvers. A large series of strabismus surgery patients had deliberately quantified tension on extraocular rectus muscles during general anesthesia. The mean bradycardia was greatest for diving response (apneic facial exposure to cold) and Valsalva maneuver and least for pressure on the globe and carotid sinus massage. Bradycardia occurred for every subject for the non-surgical maneuvers, however, extraocular muscle tension frequently caused no change in heart rate or even tachycardia. The inter-subject variance in percent heart rate change was greatest for surgical oculocardiac reflex. Of the rectus muscles, the inferior caused the most bradycardia while the lateral caused the least. The percent oculocardiac reflex was not age dependent. Occasional patients demonstrated profound bradycardia with strabismus surgery. Of these maneuvers, diving response has theoretical advantage in treating paroxysmal atrial tachycardia. The human cardiac vagal efferent was stimulated by several carefully controlled maneuvers resulting in wide inter-maneuver differences in bradycardia magnitude. The greatest intra-maneuver variability occurred with surgical oculocardiac reflex.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carotid Sinus
  • Child
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Period
  • Massage / adverse effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reflex, Oculocardiac / physiology*
  • Strabismus / physiopathology*
  • Strabismus / surgery*
  • Vagus Nerve / physiology*
  • Valsalva Maneuver