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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

The role of the phrenic nerves in stress response in upper abdominal surgery.

Previous studies have failed to demonstrate a block of the endocrine response to upper abdominal surgery by thoracic epidural analgesia. To clarify the bases for this failure, we compared the effects of epidural analgesia of different dermatome levels up to C8-T2 or C3-4. The patients who received general anesthesia alone showed significant increases of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) immediately after skin incision. The patients with C8-T2 blocked developed significant increases in these hormones, not after the skin incision, but after the intraabdominal procedure. Of the eight patients with C3-4 block, six developed no such responses throughout the study period. The responses of oxytocin (OXT) and prolactin (PRL) were more susceptible to epidural analgesia and were blocked at the C8-T2 level. Growth hormone (GH) showed no correlation with surgical procedures and epidural block. These findings indicate that the nociceptive neural information during upper abdominal surgery is conveyed by the sensory fibers included in both the thoracic and lumbar spinal nerves that innervate the abdominal wall and the intraabdominal viscera, and by the phrenic nerves that innervate the diaphragm. The rationale for postulating the involvement of the phrenic nerves can be referred to the embryonal descent of the diaphragm from the C3-5 myotomes that serves as the upper wall of the abdominal cavity.[1]


  1. The role of the phrenic nerves in stress response in upper abdominal surgery. Segawa, H., Mori, K., Kasai, K., Fukata, J., Nakao, K. Anesth. Analg. (1996) [Pubmed]
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