Does the pressor response to ischemic exercise improve blood flow to contracting muscles in humans?

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The purpose of this study was to determine in humans 1) the gain for the reflex pressor response that occurs when perfusion pressure to rhythmically contracting muscles is reduced and 2) whether the pressor response improves blood flow to the contracting muscles. Six normal subjects performed light, moderate, and heavy rhythmic forearm contractions (30/min) with the forearm enclosed in a Plexiglas box. Pressure in the box was increased 10 mmHg each minute up to 50 mmHg to reduce transmural pressure in the arterial system of the forearm. Mean arterial pressure (MAP) was measured continuously. During light exercise no reflex increase in MAP occurred until box pressure was 50 mmHg. During moderate and heavy exercise MAP began to increase with only 10- to 20-mmHg increases in box pressure. The slope of this increase was 3.5-3.9 mmHg per 10 mmHg of box pressure (~60% of that in dogs). In a further study on six subjects a deep vein draining the active forearm muscles was cannulated and deep venous O2 saturation measured to assess how a 50-mmHg increase in box pressure and subsequent reflex increase in MAP altered blood flow to the contracting muscles during heavy rhythmic exercise. The increase in box pressure reduced blood flow to contracting forearm muscles by 20-25% and was followed by a 19-mmHg increase in MAP that did not appear to improve perfusion of the active muscles. This finding was unexpected, because studies in dogs suggest that the pressor response to rhythmic exercise with restricted muscle blood flow can improve perfusion of the active muscles. It is suggested that in humans increased sympathetic outflow to resistance vessels in the contracting forearm muscles contributed to the pressor response and may have prevented the increases in perfusion pressure and local vasodilating metabolites from restoring blood flow to the contracting muscles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1496-1501
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1991


  • exercise
  • muscle blood flow
  • muscle chemoreflex
  • sympathetic nervous system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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