Baroreceptor sensitivity response to phase IV of the Valsalva maneuver in spinal cord injury

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Due to the increased prevalence of ischemic heart disease and hypertension reported in individuals with chronic spinal cord injury (SCI), we investigated whether subjects with low level SCI (paraplegia), without apparent evidence of coronary artery disease, exhibit normal baroreceptor and autonomic function. Eighteen males participated in this study: seven normotensive with paraplegia, five hypertensive with paraplegia and six normotensive non-SCI controls. The Valsalva maneuver was performed by maintaining a pressure of 40 mmHg over 15s and R-R intervals (RRI) and arterial blood pressure were measured continuously. Phase IV of the Valsalva maneuver was determined by linear regression analysis between RRI and systolic pressure, with a final slope calculated. The power spectra for RRI and blood pressure variability parameters were also analyzed, in addition to the index α, a frequency domain estimate of the overall gain in baroreceptor control of the RRI-arterial blood pressure. The normotensive subjects with paraplegia were found to have an impaired baroreceptor response when compared with agematched, non-SCI controls. In addition, the levels of both the low frequency and high frequency spectral components of RRI and the index α were reduced in these individuals at rest. These cumulative findings strongly suggest that the integrity of the sinoaortic baroreceptors, as well as efferent parasympathetic function, may be compromised in otherwise apparently healthy individuals with chronic paraplegia.

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