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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1997 Dec;83(6):2048-54.

Neural mechanism of the pressor response to obstructive and nonobstructive apnea.

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Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin, and Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


Obstructive and nonobstructive apneas elicit substantial increases in muscle sympathetic nerve activity and arterial pressure. The time course of change in these variables suggests a causal relationship; however, mechanical influences, such as release of negative intrathoracic pressure and reinflation of the lungs, are potential contributors to the arterial pressure rise. To test the hypothesis that apnea-induced pressor responses are neurally mediated, we measured arterial pressure (photoelectric plethysmography), muscle sympathetic nerve activity (peroneal microneurography), arterial O2 saturation (pulse oximeter), and end-tidal CO2 tension (gas analyzer) during sustained Mueller maneuvers, intermittent Mueller maneuvers, and simple breath holds in six healthy humans before, during, and after ganglionic blockade with trimethaphan (3-4 mg/min, titrated to produce complete disappearance of sympathetic bursts from the neurogram). Ganglionic blockade abolished the pressor responses to sustained and intermittent Mueller maneuvers (-4 +/- 1 vs. +15 +/- 3 and 0 +/- 2 vs. +15 +/- 5 mmHg) and breath holds (0 +/- 3 vs. +11 +/- 3, all P < 0.05). We conclude that the acute pressor response to obstructive and nonobstructive voluntary apnea is sympathetically mediated.

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