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Exp Physiol. 2014 Oct;99(10):1312-24. doi: 10.1113/expphysiol.2014.080556. Epub 2014 Jul 25.

Increased cardiac output contributes to the development of chronic intermittent hypoxia-induced hypertension.

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UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland
Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland.
UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland.


Chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH) in animal models has been shown to result in hypertension and elevation of sympathetic nervous system activity. Sympathetically mediated vasoconstriction is believed to be the primary mechanism underpinning CIH-induced hypertension; however, the potential contribution of the heart is largely overlooked. We sought to determine the contribution of cardiac output (CO) and lumbar sympathetic control of the hindlimb circulation to CIH-induced hypertension. Male Wistar rats (n = 64) were exposed to 2 weeks of CIH [cycles of 90 s hypoxia (5% O2 nadir) and 210 s normoxia] or normoxia for 8 h day(-1). Under urethane anaesthesia, CIH-treated animals developed hypertension (81.4 ± 2.2 versus 91.6 ± 2.4 mmHg; P < 0.001), tachycardia (397 ± 8 versus 445 ± 7 beats min(-1); P < 0.001) and an increased haematocrit (42.4 ± 0.4 versus 45.0 ± 0.4%; P < 0.001). Echocardiography revealed that CIH exposure increased the CO [19.3 ± 1.7 versus 25.8 ± 2.6 ml min(-1) (100 g)(-1); P = 0.027] with no change in total peripheral resistance (4.93 ± 0.49 versus 4.17 ± 0.34 mmHg ml(-1) min(-1); P = 0.123). Sympathetic ganglionic blockade revealed that sympathetic control over blood pressure was not different (-27.7 ± 1.6 versus -32.3 ± 2.9 mmHg; P = 0.095), and no chronic vasoconstriction was found in the hindlimb circulation of CIH-treated animals (39.4 ± 2.5 versus 38.0 ± 2.4 μl min(-1) mmHg(-1); P = 0.336). Lumbar sympathetic control over the hindlimb circulation was unchanged in CIH-treated animals (P = 0.761), although hindlimb arterial sympathetic density was increased (P = 0.012) and vascular sensitivity to phenylephrine was blunted (P = 0.049). We conclude that increased CO is sufficient to explain the development of CIH-induced hypertension, which may be an early adaptive response to raise O2 flow. We propose that sustained elevated cardiac work may ultimately lead to heart failure.

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