Interictal cardiac autonomic dysfunction in temporal lobe epilepsy demonstrated by 123I-metaiodobenzylguanidine-SPECT

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Druschky A, Hilz MJ, Hopp P, Platsch G, Radespiel-Tröger M, Druschky K, Kuwert T, Stefan H, and Neundörfer B (2001) Interictal cardiac autonomic dysfunction in temporal lobe epilepsy demonstrated by [(123)I]metaiodobenzylguanidine-SPECT. Brain 124:Pt 12 2372–82.

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Abstract: We studied the post-ganglionic cardiac sympathetic innervation in patients with chronic temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) by means of [(123)I]metaiodobenzylguanidine-single photon computed tomography (MIBG-SPECT) and evaluated the effects of carbamazepine on cardiac sympathetic innervation. TLE is frequently associated with dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system. Autonomic dysregulation might contribute to unexplained sudden death in epilepsy. Anticonvulsive medication, particularly with carbamazepine, might also influence autonomic cardiovascular modulation. MIBG-SPECT allows the quantification of post-ganglionic cardiac sympathetic innervation, whereas measuring the variability of the heart rate provides only functional parameters of autonomic modulation. Antiepileptic drugs, especially carbamazepine (CBZ), can affect cardiovascular modulation. We determined the index of cardiac MIBG uptake (heart/mediastinum ratio) and heart rate variability (HRV) using time and frequency domain parameters of sympathetic and parasympathetic modulation in 12 women and 10 men (median age 34.5 years) with a history of TLE for 7-41 years (median 20 years). Myocardial perfusion scintigrams were examined to rule out deficiencies of MIBG uptake due to myocardial ischaemia. To assess the possible effects of CBZ on autonomic function, we compared MIBG uptake and HRV in 11 patients who had taken CBZ and 11 patients who had not taken CBZ, and in 16 healthy controls. In order to identify MIBG uptake defects due to myocardial ischaemia, all patients had a perfusion scintigram. Cardiac MIBG uptake was significantly less in the TLE patients (1.75) than in the controls (2.14; P = 0.001), but did not differ between subgroups with and without CBZ treatment. The perfusion scintigram was normal in all patients. Time domain analysis of HRV parameters suggested the predominance of parasympathetic cardiac activity in the TLE patients, but less parasympathetic modulation in the patients treated with CBZ than in those not treated with CBZ (P < 0.05), whereas frequency domain parameters showed no significant difference between the subgroups of patients or between patients and controls. MIBG-SPECT demonstrates altered post-ganglionic cardiac sympathetic innervation. This dysfunction might carry an increased risk of cardiac abnormalities.

Keywords: temporal lobe epilepsy, cardiac autonomic dysfunction, [123I]MIBG-SPECT, heart rate variability


  • SPECT was used in TLE patients. The amount of uptake of the labeled compound was compared in heart and mediastinum. EKG was also recorded. Cardiac uptake was lower in patients than in controls, indicating reduced autonomic input. Heart-rate variability was also abnormal in patients. The group used the same method to address changes in autonomic control of heart function following epilepsy surgery Hilz et al.


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