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Superficial Cardiac Plexus
Nervous System

Superficial Cardiac Plexus

Plexus cardiacus superficialis

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Quick Facts

Sympathetic Contribution: Left superior cervical nerve of the sympathetic trunk.

Parasympathetic Contribution: Inferior cervical cardiac branch and thoracic cardiac branch of the left vagus nerve.

Course: Lies inferior to the aortic arch, anterior to the pulmonary trunk.

Sympathetic Supply: Increases heart rate, cardiac impulse conduction, and force of myocardial contraction, dilates coronary arteries.

Parasympathetic Supply: Decreases heart rate and force of myocardial contraction.

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Contributing Nerves

The superficial cardiac plexus is formed by cardiac branches that extend from the left vagus nerve and the left sympathetic trunk.

The sympathetic component of the superficial cardiac plexus comes from the left superior cervical cardiac nerve (Standring, 2016). The preganglionic cell bodies reside in the lateral horn of the T1 through T5 spinal cord segments. The postganglionic cell bodies reside primarily in the superior cervical ganglion, from which the superior cardiac nerve emerges.

The parasympathetic component of the superficial cardiac plexus comes from the inferior cervical cardiac branch and thoracic cardiac branch of the left vagus nerve (Standring, 2016). The preganglionic parasympathetic cell bodies reside in the dorsal nucleus of the vagus nerve, in the medulla oblongata. The postganglionic parasympathetic cell bodies reside in the various cardiac ganglia spread throughout the cardiac plexuses and cardiac tissue.

Course

The superficial cardiac plexus is located in the area inferior to the aortic arch and anterior to the pulmonary trunk and right pulmonary artery.

Branches

Along its course, the superficial cardiac plexus gives off multiple branches, including the right coronary plexus and left anterior pulmonary plexus. It also joins with the deep cardiac plexus (Standring, 2016).

Supplied Structures & Function

The superficial cardiac plexus provides both sympathetic and parasympathetic innervation to the heart. Both types of nerve fibers pass from the plexus into the cardiac tissue by following the coronary arteries and their branches.

The sympathetic fibers lead to dilation of coronary arteries and increased rate and force of cardiac myofiber contraction. Parasympathetic fibers do the opposite, constricting coronary arteries and reducing heart rate.

Visceral sensory fibers traveling through the superficial cardiac plexus convey information relating to pain, blood pressure, and blood chemistry back to the central nervous system.

List of Clinical Correlates

—Referred pain

References

Standring, S. (2016) Gray's Anatomy: The Anatomical Basis of Clinical Practice. Gray's Anatomy Series: Elsevier Limited.

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