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International Journal of Morphology

On-line version ISSN 0717-9502


DE GAMA, B. Z; LAZARUS, L; PARTAB, P  and  SATYAPAL, K. S. The Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Contributions to the Cardiac Plexus: a Fetal Study. Int. J. Morphol. [online]. 2012, vol.30, n.4, pp.1569-1576. ISSN 0717-9502.

The cardiac plexus is formed by sympathetic nerves originating from the superior, middle, inferior cervical or cervicothoracic ganglia as well as from the first to the fifth thoracic ganglia. Furthermore, the vagus nerve and its counterpart, the recurrent laryngeal nerve supply the cardiac plexus with parasympathetic cardiac nerves. This investigation aimed to review and record the medial contributions of the cervical ganglia, first to fifth thoracic ganglia and medial contributions of the vagus and recurrent laryngeal nerves to the cardiac plexus. The study involved bilateral micro-dissection of forty cadaveric fetal specimens (n=80). The origins of sympathetic contributions to the cardiac plexus were described as either ganglionic, inter-ganglionic or from both the ganglion and the inter-ganglionic sympathetic chain. The number of cervical sympathetic ganglia varied from two to five in this study; the superior cervical ganglion was constant while the middle cervical, vertebral, inferior cervical or cervicothoracic ganglia were variable. The prevalence of cardiac nerves were as follows: superior cervical cardiac nerve (95%); middle cervical cardiac nerve (73%); vertebral cardiac nerve (41%); inferior cervical cardiac nerve (21%) and cervicothoracic cardiac nerve (24%). This investigation records the thoracic caudal limit of the thoracic sympathetic contributions to the cardiac plexus as the T5 ganglion. The findings of this study highlight the importance of understanding the medial sympathetic contributions and their variations to the cardiac plexus as this may assist surgeons during minimal access surgical procedures, sympathectomies, pericardiectomies and in the management of diseases like Raynaud's Phenomenon and angina pectoris.

Keywords : Cardiac plexus; Sympathetic; Parasympathetic; Vagus nerve; Superficial cardiac plexus; Deep cardiac plexus.

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