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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2011 Mar;300(3):R663-73. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00662.2010. Epub 2010 Dec 22.

Hemodynamic responses to heat stress in the resting and exercising human leg: insight into the effect of temperature on skeletal muscle blood flow.

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Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance, Brunel University West London, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UK.


Heat stress increases limb blood flow and cardiac output (Q) in humans, presumably in sole response to an augmented thermoregulatory demand of the skin circulation. Here we tested the hypothesis that local hyperthermia also increases skeletal muscle blood flow at rest and during exercise. Hemodynamics, blood and tissue oxygenation, and muscle, skin, and core temperatures were measured at rest and during exercise in 11 males across four conditions of progressive whole body heat stress and at rest during isolated leg heat stress. During whole body heat stress, leg blood flow (LBF), Q, and leg (LVC) and systemic vascular conductance increased gradually with elevations in muscle temperature both at rest and during exercise (r(2) = 0.86-0.99; P < 0.05). Enhanced LBF and LVC were accompanied by reductions in leg arteriovenous oxygen (a-vO(2)) difference and increases in deep femoral venous O(2) content and quadriceps tissue oxygenation, reflecting elevations in muscle and skin perfusion. The increase in LVC occurred despite an augmented plasma norepinephrine (P < 0.05) and was associated with elevations in muscle temperature (r(2) = 0.85; P = 0.001) and arterial plasma ATP (r(2) = 0.87; P < 0.001). Isolated leg heat stress accounted for one-half of the increase in LBF with severe whole body heat stress. Our findings suggest that local hyperthermia also induces vasodilatation of the skeletal muscle microvasculature, thereby contributing to heat stress and exercise hyperemia. The increased limb muscle vasodilatation in these conditions of elevated muscle sympathetic vasoconstrictor activity is closely related to the rise in arterial plasma ATP and local tissue temperature.

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