Chronic sinoatrial disorder (sick sinus syndrome): a possible result of cardiac ischaemia.
Postmortem angiography was used to examine the blood vessels supplying the sinoatrial node in 25 subjects with chronic sinoatrial disorder (group 1). The results were compared with similar studies in 54 subjects who died of heart block and in whom sinus node function was normal (group 2). Although no significant lesion obstructing the blood flow to the sinus node was seen in the majority of those in group 1, there were abnormalities in seven cases, with reduced filling of the sinus node artery in five. In group 2 the sinus node artery filled normally in all cases despite major disease of the parent vessel in three. The combination of contralateral coronary artery disease with extensive atrial anastomoses was actively sought because this arrangement might predispose to a steal phenomenon. Such conditions were fully met in three cases in group 1 and two cases in group 2, and were found to a lesser extent in a further two cases in group 1 and three in group 2. Although coronary artery disease was unlikely to be the principal cause of sinus node dysfunction in most of the cases studied it was relatively common and may have been a factor in about one third. Improved survival after myocardial infarction may increase the number of patients with chronic sinoatrial disorder of ischaemic origin.