Effects of L-arginine on lower limb vasodilator reserve and exercise capacity in patients with chronic heart failure

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Abstract

Objective

To determine whether the reactive hyperaemic response of the lower limb increases with improved exercise capacity after acute supplementation with L-arginine, the precursor of nitric oxide, in patients with chronic heart failure.

Methods

19 patients with chronic heart failure were enrolled in the study. Rest calf blood flow and femoral occlusion induced calf blood flow changes were measured by venous occlusion plethysmography before and after intravenous infusion of 10% L-arginine solution (5 ml/kg for 30 minutes) or placebo. Postexercise calf blood flow was also measured after the experimental infusion. During both postinfusion periods, several exercise capacity indices were determined by a symptom limited cardiopulmonary exercise test using a bicycle ergometer.

Results

Baseline calf blood flow, systemic blood pressure, and heart rate showed no significant changes in either of the two experimental conditions. However, the occlusion induced blood flow response was significantly enhanced by L-arginine infusion (mean (SEM) peak flow, 19.6 (1.5) v 28.9 (3.1) ml/min/dl calf tissue; p < 0.01), but not by placebo (peak flow, 19.1 (1.4) v 20.9 (1.8) ml/min/dl calf tissue; NS). Calf blood flow response after exercise was also higher after L-arginine infusion than after placebo (peak flow, 4.8 (0.4) v 6.0 (0.8) ml/min/dl calf tissue; p < 0.05). L-arginine infusion had no significant effect compared with placebo on exercise capacity indices such as peak oxygen uptake (17.1 (1.0) v 15.8 (1.1) ml/min/kg; NS), anaerobic threshold (10.5 (0.6) v 10.4 (0.7) ml/min/kg; NS), and exercise time (296 (23) v 283 (22) s; NS).

Conclusions

Acute supplementation with the nitric oxide precursor L-arginine increased lower limb reactive hyperaemia but did not lead to any significant improvement in exercise capacity in patients with chronic heart failure.

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