Time Course of Arterial Vascular Adaptations to Inactivity and Paralyses in Humans

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The aim of the present study was to assess the time course of vascular adaptations to inactivity and paralyses in humans. The spinal cord-injured (SCI) population offers a unique “human model of nature” to assess peripheral vascular adaptations and its time course to extreme inactivity and paralyses.


Arterial diameters and red blood cell velocity of the carotid artery (CA), common femoral artery (FA), and brachial artery (BA) were measured using echo Doppler ultrasound. Fifteen SCI persons with lesions varying from 6 wk to 13 months postinjury participated in a cross-sectional study (SCI-CS), 6 SCI individuals were included for longitudinal measurements (SCI-L) at weeks 6, 8, 12, 16, 20, and 24 after the trauma, and 16 able-bodied individuals served as a control group (C).


Within 6 wk after the SCI, diameter (SCI-CS: 0.68 ± 0.09 cm, SCI-L: 0.67 ± 0.04 cm, C: 0.95 ± 0.07 cm) and blood flow (SCI-CS: 299 ± 112 mL·min−1, SCI-L 279: ± 52 mL·min−1, C: 405 ± 97 mL·min−1) of the femoral artery were significantly reduced (P < 0.001), and local femoral wall shear rate was almost doubled in SCI-CS and SC-L compared with C (P < 0.001). No further changes in femoral arterial properties were observed between week 6 and 13 months postinjury in SCI-L as well as SCI-CS. Carotid and brachial artery diameter and flow were similar in SCI and C and did not change between 6 wk and 13 months after the injury.


We conclude that the process of vascular adaptations to inactivity and paralyses in humans seems to be largely completed within weeks.

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