To determine the cardiac and peripheral circulatory responses to changes in afterload with angiotensin and vasopressin, we increased mean aortic pressure 25% and 50% above control in splenectomized and ganglion-blocked dogs. We compared these responses to similar mechanical increases in aortic pressure produced by partial balloon occlusion of the descending aorta. With 25% or 50% increases in aortic pressure, angiotensin, vasopressin, and balloon inflation produced no changes in heart rate, right atrial, and mean pulmonary artery pressures. At 25% increase in aortic pressure, cardiac output was maintained with angiotensin and balloon occlusion but decreased with vasopressin. At 50% increase in aortic pressure, cardiac output was maintained with only balloon occlusion and decreased with both angiotensin and vasopressin. Whenever cardiac output fell, central blood volume did not increase as afterload increased. These changes in preload can be explained by alterations in the venous circulation. Vasopressin did not alter venous compliance or unstressed vascular volume but increased resistance to venous return. Angiotensin also increased resistance to venous return but decreased venous compliance and did not change unstressed vascular volume. Balloon occlusion had no effects on these parameters. We conclude that: (a) angiotensin caused significant venoconstriction resulting in maintenance of cardiac output at 25% but not 50% increase in aortic pressure; (b) vasopressin increased the resistance to venous return without venoconstriction; this resulted in a fall in cardiac output even with a 25% increase in aortic pressure; and (c) the effects of the agents on the venous circulation were independent of the mechanical effects of a pressure increase in the arterial circulation.
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