The morphologic events in the microcirculation that lead to reperfusion injury of ischemic skeletal muscle remain incompletely understood. The purpose of this experiment was to evaluate leukocyte endothelial adherence characteristics and dynamic changes in microvessel caliber during reperfusion of an in vivo skeletal muscle ischemia preparation. In addition, the effect of hyperbaric oxygen treatment on these microcirculatory changes also was studied.
An intravital microscopy preparation of a transilluminated gracilis muscle in 27 rats was used to observe a total of 101 arterioles and 63 venules (13 to 73 μm diameter). Baseline hemodynamics were videotaped for 30 minutes following muscle isolation. The animals were divided into six groups: (1) sham, no ischemia, (2) 4 hours of global ischemia only, (3) no ischemia plus hyperbaric oxygen (one 2.5 ATA/1 hour of treatment with 100% oxygen), (4) 4 hours of ischemia plus hyperbaric oxygen during ischemia, (5) 4 hours of ischemia plus hyperbaric oxygen immediately on reperfusion, and (6) 4 hours of ischemia plus hyperbaric oxygen 1 hour after reperfusion. Changes in arteriolar and venular diameters at specific times during 3 hours of reperfusion were recorded, and the number of adherent and slow-rolling leukocytes in 100-μm venular segments were counted and compared with baseline measurements. The proximity of arterioles to venules was classified as adjacent (<15 μm) or distant (>15 μm).
No significant changes in leukocyte endothelial adherence or arteriolar diameter were noted in group 1 sham or group 3 nonischemic hyperbaric oxygen-treated rats when compared with baseline measurements. A significant increase in adherent leukocytes was observed in group 2 ischemic venules (+14.9 ± 2.5) within 5 minutes of reperfusion, which was maintained for 3 hours. Reperfusion measurements of arteriolar diameter in group 2 ischemic muscle preparations demonstrated an initial vasodilation that was followed at 1 hour by a progressive and severe vasoconstriction (−46.9 ±11.3 percent at 3 hours) in arterioles adjacent to venules that was not seen in distant arterioles. The increase in adherent leukocytes seen in group 2 ischemic venules was significantly reduced by hyperbaric oxygen treatment given during ischemia (group 4) or up to 1 hour during reperfusion (groups 5 and 6). In addition, the progressive ischemic arteriolar vasoconstriction was inhibited in all groups (4, 5, and 6) treated with hyperbaric oxygen.
These results suggest that (1) leukocyte venular endothelial adherence and microarteriolar vasoconstriction are important morphologic events leading to reperfusion injury of skeletal muscle, (2) this vasoconstriction is seen primarily in arterioles that are in close proximity to venules, and (3) hyperbaric oxygen treatment does not exacerbate reperfusion injury, but rather appears to protect the microcirculation by reducing venular leukocyte adherence and inhibiting progressive adjacent arteriolar vasoconstriction.