Indexed on: 18 Feb '14Published on: 18 Feb '14Published in: Journal of Anatomy
Although the rabbit is routinely used as the animal model of choice to investigate cardiac electrophysiology, the neuroanatomy of the rabbit heart is not well documented. The aim of this study was to examine the topography of the intrinsic nerve plexus located on the rabbit heart surface and interatrial septum stained histochemically for acetylcholinesterase using pressure-distended whole hearts and whole-mount preparations from 33 Californian rabbits. Mediastinal cardiac nerves entered the venous part of the heart along the root of the right cranial vein (superior caval vein) and at the bifurcation of the pulmonary trunk. The accessing nerves of the venous part of the heart passed into the nerve plexus of heart hilum at the heart base. Nerves approaching the heart extended epicardially and innervated the atria, interatrial septum and ventricles by five nerve subplexuses, i.e. left and middle dorsal, dorsal right atrial, ventral right and left atrial subplexuses. Numerous nerves accessed the arterial part of the arterial part of the heart hilum between the aorta and pulmonary trunk, and distributed onto ventricles by the left and right coronary subplexuses. Clusters of intrinsic cardiac neurons were concentrated at the heart base at the roots of pulmonary veins with some positioned on the infundibulum. The mean number of intrinsic neurons in the rabbit heart is not significantly affected by aging: 2200 ± 262 (range 1517-2788; aged) vs. 2118 ± 108 (range 1513-2822; juvenile). In conclusion, despite anatomic differences in the distribution of intrinsic cardiac neurons and the presence of well-developed nerve plexus within the heart hilum, the topography of all seven subplexuses of the intrinsic nerve plexus in rabbit heart corresponds rather well to other mammalian species, including humans.