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Auton Neurosci. 2012 May 21;168(1-2):4-13. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2012.02.003. Epub 2012 Mar 17.

The actions of hyperthermia on the autonomic nervous system: central and peripheral mechanisms and clinical implications.

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Laboratory of Experimental Surgery, Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel.


Hyperthermia is defined as an elevated body temperature due to failed thermoregulation. It can occur under physiological conditions such as intense exercise or due to pathology such as malignant hyperthermia and heat stroke. It has also been implicated as a cause for sudden infant death syndrome. High temperatures are also used in medical interventions - hyperthermic chemotherapy or radiofrequency ablation, for example, which have serious side effects. The effect of hyperthermia on the central nervous system has not been fully researched, but even less is known on the effects of hyperthermia on the peripheral autonomic nervous system. In this review we discuss how conditions such as malignant or therapeutic hyperthermia affect the central and peripheral components of the autonomic nervous system, smooth muscle, skeletal muscle and cardiac muscle. We conclude that there is sufficient evidence for the detrimental effect of hyperthermia on central nerves, and that these effects are long lasting, although the major mechanism for this remains unknown. Similarly, the direct damage of hyperthermia to the enteric nerves also seems to be long lasting. In contrast, the reduced contractility of cardiac muscle and gastrointestinal smooth muscle when exposed to hyperthermia is short-lived. The consensus is that inadequate calcium handling is the mechanism of heat damage to cardiac and skeletal muscle. There is no such consensus when dealing with smooth muscle. The mechanism of hyperthermic damage to autonomic end organs such as the gastrointestinal tract has yet to be elucidated and further research into both central and peripheral hyperthermia is necessary.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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