Although enhanced sympathetic tone is a well-known component of the autonomic imbalance of heart failure, its influence on pulmonary vasomotility is undefined. We investigated the pulmonary circulation in 12 patients with congestive heart failure in NYHA functional class III and in a control group of 10 normal subjects. Sympathetic influence on pulmonary vessels was studied through adrenergic activation by the arithmetic test and the cold pressor test. A rubber balloon was distended in the inferior vena cava to reduce transpulmonary flow and its influence on vascular tone. In normal individuals the arithmetic test caused pulmonary vasodilation, probably because of the mechanical effect of a largely enhanced flow: in fact, caval obstruction unmasked a neurogenic vasoconstrictor response to the arithmetic test by simply reducing the amount of cardiac output increase. In patients with heart failure, cardiac output and pulmonary arteriolar resistance remained steady during the arithmetic test, no matter what the condition of the venous return was. The cold pressor test was always a vasoconstrictor stimulus, but only in normal subjects was vasoconstriction potentiated by reducing, with caval obstruction, transpulmonary flow and its vasodilatory influence. From these data an attenuation of the sympathetic influence on pulmonary vessels in congestive heart failure seems to be likely. This might be explained as the result of modifications of pulmonary vessels rather than of reduced sympathetic excitability since circulating catecholamine levels varied to similar extents in the two groups during the tests. In congestive heart failure interstitial edema and vascular wall imbibition might increase pulmonary vessel tone and decrease vascular receptor availability. Lower reactivity to sympathetic stimuli, particularly to the vasoconstrictor ones, would ensue.
- Arithmetic test
- Cold pressor test
- Pulmonary circulation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine