Autonomic function in hypertensive patients with neurovascular compression of the ventrolateral medulla oblongata

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ObjectiveTo study whether abnormalities of autonomic function exist in patients with essential hypertension and neurovascular compression (NVC) of the medulla oblongata.Subjects and methodsWe studied 25 untreated patients with essential hypertension (13 men and 12 women, 27–74 years old). High-resolution magnetic resonance imaging and magnetic resonance angiography were used to detect NVC. Twenty-four-hour ambulatory monitoring of blood pressure and electrocardiogram were performed, and the power spectrum of heart rate variability was analyzed. On a separate day, various autonomic activity tests, including mental stress, hand grip, cold pressor, and Valsalva maneuver were performed. Baroreflex sensitivity was calculated from changes of blood pressure and R-R interval during phenylephrine infusion. A clonidine suppression test was also performed, with measurement of plasma catecholamine levels.ResultsFourteen of 25 patients (56%) had NVC (C group), and 11 patients did not have NVC (NC group). There were no significant differences in age, sex, family history, or duration of hypertension between the C and NC groups. Average 24-h systolic blood pressure was similar between the two groups, although 24-h diastolic blood pressure was higher in the C group than the NC group. Daytime, night-time, and 24-h heart rate was significantly higher in the C group than in the NC group. Night-time low frequency/high frequency ratio was slightly higher in the C group. Plasma norepinephrine levels were significantly higher (467 ± 217 versus 299 ± 122 pg/ml), and baroflex sensitivity was slightly lower in the C group than in the NC group. Responses of blood pressure and heart rate to mental stress, cold pressor, hand grip, Valsalva maneuver, phenylephrine infusion, and clonidine tests were not significantly different between the two groups.ConclusionsNVC of the medulla oblongata was frequently found in patients with essential hypertension. Patients with NVC appeared to have enhanced sympathetic nervous activity compared with those without the compression.

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