In-vivo application of low frequency alternating currents on porcine cervical vagus nerve evokes reversible nerve conduction block
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Background: This paper describes a method to reversibly block nerve conduction through direct application of a 1 Hz sinusoidal current waveform delivered through a bipolar nerve cuff electrode. This low frequency alternating current (LFAC) waveform was previously shown to reversibly block the effects of vagal pulse stimulation evoked bradycardia in-vivo in the anaesthetised rat model (Mintch et al. 2019). The present work measured the effectiveness of LFAC block on larger caliber myelinated vagal afferent fibers in human sized nerve bundles projecting to changes in breathing rate mediated by the Hering-Breuer (HB) reflex in anaesthetized domestic swine (n=5).
Methods: Two bipolar cuff electrodes were implanted unilaterally to the left cervical vagus nerve, which was crushed caudal to the electrodes to eliminate cardiac effects. A tripolar recording cuff electrode was placed rostral to the bipolar stimulating electrodes on the same nerve to measure changes in the compound nerve action potentials (CNAP) elicited by the vagal pulse stimulation and conditioned by the LFAC waveform. Standard pulse stimulation was applied at a sufficient level to induce a reduction in breathing rate through the HB reflex. If unblocked, the HB reflex would cause breathing to slow down and potentially halt completely. Block was quantified by the ability of LFAC to reduce the effect of the HB reflex by monitoring the respiration rate during LFAC alone, LFAC and vagal stimulation, and vagal stimulation alone.
Results: LFAC achieved 87.2 ±8.8% block (n=5) at current levels of 1.1 ±0.3 mAp (current to peak), which was well within the water window of the working electrode. CNAP showed changes that directly correlated to the effectiveness of LFAC block, which manifested itself as the slowing and amplitude reduction of components of the CNAP.
Conclusion: These novel findings suggest that LFAC is a potential alternative or complementary method to other electrical blocking techniques in clinical applications.