Influence of Gravity on Cardiac Performance

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Results obtained by the investigators in ground-based experiments and in two parabolic flight series of tests aboard the NASA KC-135 aircraft with a hydraulic simulator of the human systemic circulation have confirmed that a simple lack of hydrostatic pressure within an artificial ventricle causes a decrease in stroke volume of 20-50%. A corresponding drop in stroke volume (SV) and cardiac output (CO) was observed over a range of atrial pressures (AP), representing a rightward shift of the classic CO versus AP cardiac function curve. These results are in agreement with echocardiographic experiments performed on space shuttle flights, where an average decrease in SV of 15% was measured following a three-day period of adaptation to weightlessness. The similarity of behavior of the hydraulic model to the human system suggests that the simple physical effects of the lack of hydrostatic pressure may be an important mechanism for the observed changes in cardiac performance in astronauts during the weightlessness of space flight.

PAC98: 8765+y, 8745Hw

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