Effects of acute hypoxia on cerebrovascular responses to carbon dioxide

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Abstract

New Findings

In normoxic conditions, a reduction in arterial carbon dioxide tension causes cerebral vasoconstriction, thereby reducing cerebral blood flow and modifying dynamic cerebral autoregulation (dCA). It is unclear to what extent these effects are altered by acute hypoxia and the associated hypoxic ventilatory response (respiratory chemoreflex). This study tested the hypothesis that acute hypoxia attenuates arterial CO2 tension-mediated regulation of cerebral blood flow to help maintain cerebral O2 homeostasis. Eight subjects performed three randomly assigned respiratory interventions following a resting baseline period, as follows: (1) normoxia (21% O2); (2) hypoxia (12% O2); and (3) hypoxia with wilful restraint of the respiratory chemoreflex. During each intervention, 0, 2.0, 3.5 or 5.0% CO2 was sequentially added (8 min stages) to inspired gas mixtures to assess changes in steady-state cerebrovascular CO2 reactivity and dCA. During normoxia, the addition of CO2 increased internal carotid artery blood flow and middle cerebral artery mean blood velocity (MCA Vmean), while reducing dCA (change in phase = −0.73 ± 0.22 rad, P = 0.005). During acute hypoxia, internal carotid artery blood flow and MCA Vmean remained unchanged, but cerebrovascular CO2 reactivity (internal carotid artery, P = 0.003; MCA Vmean, P = 0.031) and CO2-mediated effects on dCA (P = 0.008) were attenuated. The effects of hypoxia were not further altered when the respiratory chemoreflex was restrained. These findings support the hypothesis that arterial CO2 tension-mediated effects on the cerebral vasculature are reduced during acute hypoxia. These effects could limit the degree of hypocapnic vasoconstriction and may help to regulate cerebral blood flow and cerebral O2 homeostasis during acute periods of hypoxia.

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