The human phrenic nerve serves as a morphological conduit for autonomic nerves and innervates the caval body of the diaphragm

Thomas J. M. Verlinden*, Paul van Dijk, Andreas Herrler, Corrie de Gier-de Vries, Wouter H. Lamers, S. Eleonore Kohler

*Corresponding author for this work

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Communicating fibres between the phrenic nerve and sympathetic nervous system may exist, but have not been characterized histologically and immunohistochemically, even though increased sympathetic activity due to phrenic nerve stimulation for central sleep apnoea may entail morbidity and mortality. We, therefore, conducted a histological study of the phrenic nerve to establish the presence of catecholaminergic fibres throughout their course. The entire phrenic nerves of 35 formalin-fixed human cadavers were analysed morphometrically and immunohistochemically. Furthermore, the right abdominal phrenic nerve was serially sectioned and reconstructed. The phrenic nerve contained 3 +/- 2 fascicles in the neck that merged to form a single fascicle in the thorax and split again into 3 +/- 3 fascicles above the diaphragm. All phrenic nerves contained catecholaminergic fibres, which were distributed homogenously or present as distinct areas within a fascicle or as separate fascicles. The phrenicoabdominal branch of the right phrenic nerve is a branch of the celiac plexus and, therefore, better termed the "phrenic branch of the celiac plexus". The wall of the inferior caval vein in the diaphragm contained longitudinal strands of myocardium and atrial natriuretic peptide-positive paraganglia ("caval bodies") that where innervated by the right phrenic nerve.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11697
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2018


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