Topography of cardiac ganglia in the adult human heart

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 1996 Oct;112(4):943-53. doi: 10.1016/S0022-5223(96)70094-6.


Published descriptions of the topography of cardiac ganglia in the human heart are limited and present conflicting results. This study was carried out to determine the distribution of cardiac ganglia in adult human hearts and to address these conflicts. Hearts obtained from autopsies and heart transplant procedures were sectioned, stained, and examined. Results indicate that the largest populations of cardiac ganglia are near the sinoatrial and atrioventricular nodes. Smaller collections of ganglia exist on the superior left atrial surface, the interatrial septum, and the atrial appendage-atrial junctions. Ganglia also exist at the base of the great vessels and the base of the ventricles. The right atrial free wall, atrial appendages, trunk of the great vessels, and most of the ventricular myocardium are devoid of cardiac ganglia. These findings suggest modifications to surgical procedures involving incisions through regions concentrated with ganglia to minimize arrhythmias and related complications. Repairs of septal defects, valvular procedures, and congenital reconstructions, such as the Senning and Fontan operations, involve incisions through areas densely populated with cardiac ganglia. The current standard procedure for orthotopic heart transplantation severs cardiac ganglia and their projections to nodal and muscular tissue. One modification of the current heart transplantation procedure, involving bicaval anastomosis, preserves atrial anatomy and the cardiac ganglia. Preservation of cardiac ganglia within the donor heart may provide additional neuronal substrate for intracardiac processing and targets for regenerating nerve fibers to the donor heart.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Ganglia / anatomy & histology*
  • Heart / innervation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / anatomy & histology