Muscle Sympathetic Nerve Activity During Cold Pressor Test in Patients With Cerebrovascular Accidents

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Background and Purpose

Autonomic dysfunction is frequently present in patients with cerebrovascular accidents (CVA). However, the pathophysiological mechanisms of these disorders are not clear. The purpose of the study was to assess the effects of CVA on the autonomic nervous system.


In eight male patients with a history of CVA with damage of the cortical or subcortical structures, we measured the cold pressor response during recording of muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) from the peroneal nerve on the hemiplegic side. We also studied 10 age-matched male control subjects. Tests were performed before, during, and after immersion of the nonhemiplegic hand in ice water for a period of 3 minutes in each phase. We also recorded changes in heart rate (HR), arterial blood pressure, skin temperature of the middle finger, and perception of pain using the Borg's score.


During the control period, the mean burst count of MSNA in CVA (57.2 +/- 3.9 beats/100 HR) was higher than in control subjects (36.3 +/- 3.2 beats/100 HR) (P<.05). Total MSNA (the mean burst amplitude per minute times burst rate) increased significantly in CVA and control during the immersion period by 79.9 +/- 18.4% and 133.1 +/- 25.6%, respectively. The percent change in total MSNA in CVA was attenuated during immersion compared with control subjects. The HR and skin temperature responses as well as the Borg's score were similar in both groups during control, hand immersion, and recovery periods.


The present results suggest that increased MSNA in CVA may be due to damage of cortical or subcortical structures or stroke-related changes in other areas or nonspecific changes that cause continuous increase in basal MSNA. (Stroke. 1998;29:607-612.)

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