Relationship between sympathetic nervous system activity, baroreflex and cardiovascular effects after acute nitric oxide synthesis inhibition in humans

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Objective:To examine the cardiovascular effects of acute systemic nitric oxide synthesis inhibition in humans in relation to the possible involvement of changes in sympathetic nervous system activity or in the baroreceptor reflex.Design:Placebo or NG-monomethyl-L-arginine (250 mg by intravenous infusion for 5min) was administered to seven healthy male volunteers according to a random, double-blind sequence.Methods:Blood pressure and heart rate were measured non-invasively using a Finapres device from 20min before to 80min after starting infusion; beat-to-beat variability of blood pressure, pulse interval and systolic blood pressure and pulse interval covariation were assessed by means of spectral and sequence analysis methods. Under basal conditions and 15min and 60min after infusion, we measured stroke volume and indices of cardiac systolic and diastolic function by echocardiography, forearm blood flow by strain-gauge venous occlusion plethysmography, and plasma catecholamine levels.Results:Compared with placebo, administration of NG-monomethyl-L-arginine caused a transient increase in blood pressure and reduction in heart rate. Stroke volume and indices of cardiac function did not change significantly, whereas cardiac index and forearm blood flow were significantly reduced after 15min. Spectral analysis of blood pressure and pulse interval showed a significant reduction of power spectral density in the low frequencies (0.03-0.15 Hz) that persisted 60min after infusion. The plasma noradrenaline level was significantly reduced after 15min. No change in baroreflex engagement or sensitivity was detected by the cross-spectral or the sequence method.Conclusions:Acute systemic nitric oxide synthesis inhibition transiently increases blood pressure and reduces heart rate and cardiac index. The acute hypertensive response to Nc-monomethyl-L-arginine is dependent neither on sympathetic nervous system activity, which is probably reduced as a consequence of baroreceptor reflex activation, nor on baroreceptor reflex sensitivity, which is not impaired.

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