Objectives: This study in patients with diabetes mellitus was undertaken 1) to evaluate cardiac sympathetic innervation in diabetic patients using metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) imaging; 2) to study the relation between autonomic function assessed by clinical maneuvers and abnormalities in MIBG uptake; and 3) to examine the basis for our previous observation of an association between abnormalities in autonomic nervous system dysfunction and silent myocardial ischemia.
Background: The clinical detection of autonomic dysfunction in diabetes mellitus has been linked to both abnormal perception of pain, including angina, and poor prognosis.
Methods: Uptake of MIBG was measured by dual-isotope imaging in 23 normal subjects and 65 asymptomatic diabetic patients. Silent myocardial ischemia was defined as the presence of a reversible perfusion defect in patients with ST segment depression.
Results: The MIBG uptake in the diabetic patients was significantly lower than that in normal subjects in the apex (67 +/- 17% vs. 82 +/- 7%, p = 0.0001), distal third (77 +/- 11% vs. 85 +/- 3%, p = 0.0001), proximal third (77 +/- 9% vs. 84 +/- 3%, p = 0.0001) and base (71 +/- 9% vs. 80 +/- 4%, p = 0.0001) of the left ventricle. Similarly, MIBG uptake was variable across different vascular territories. When MIBG uptake was corrected for perfusion abnormalities, diabetic patients had a greater MIBG uptake defect than normal subjects on visual score assessment (16 +/- 13 vs. 8 +/- 7%, p = 0.0002) and on quantitative MIBG mismatch assessment (13 +/- 15% vs. 2 +/- 2%, p = 0.0001). Diabetic patients with versus without autonomic dysfunction had more extensive MIBG uptake mismatch (17 +/- 17% vs. 4 +/- 6%, p = 0.0001). There was a greater diffuse abnormality in diabetic patients with versus without silent myocardial ischemia detected by sestamibi/MIBG uptake ratio (68 +/- 35% vs. 19 +/- 33%, p = 0.001).
Conclusions: Sympathetic cardiac innervation in normal subjects is inhomogeneous. In contrast to normal subjects, diabetic patients have evidence of a significant reduction in MIBG uptake, most likely on the basis of autonomic dysfunction. Furthermore, diabetic patients with silent myocardial ischemia have evidence of a diffuse abnormality in MIBG uptake, suggesting that abnormalities in pain perception may be linked to sympathetic denervation.