Effects of chronic sympathectomy on locally mediated cutaneous vasodilation in humans

Nisha Charkoudian, John H. Eisenach, John L.D. Atkinson, Robert D. Fealey, Michael J. Joyner

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55 Scopus citations


In human skin, the vasodilator response to local heating includes a sensory nerve-dependent peak followed by a nadir and then a slower, nitric oxide-mediated, endothelium-dependent vasodilation. To investigate whether chronic sympathectomy diminishes this endothelium-dependent vasodilation, we studied individuals who had previously undergone surgical T2 sympathectomy (n = 9) and a group of healthy controls (n = 8). We assessed the cutaneous vascular response (laser-Doppler) to 30 min of local warming to 42.5°C on the ventral forearm (no sympathetic innervation) and the lower legs (sympathetic nerves intact). Lower body negative pressure (LBNP) was measured to confirm sympathetic denervation. During local warming in sympathectomized individuals, vascular conductance reached an initial peak at both sites [achieving 1.73 ± 0.22 laser-Doppler units (LDU)/mmHg in the forearm and 1.92 ± 0.21 LDU/mmHg in the leg]. It then decreased to a nadir in the innervated leg [to 1.77 ± 0.23 LDU/mmHg (P < 0.05)] but not in the sympathectomized arm (1.69 ± 0.21 LDU/mmHg; P > 0.10). The maximal vasodilation seen during the slower phase was not different between limbs or between groups. Furthermore, LBNP caused a 44% reduction in forearm vascular conductance (FVC) in control subjects, but FVC did not decrease significantly in sympathectomized individuals, confirming sympathetic denervation. These data indicate that endothelial function in human skin is largely preserved after sympathectomy. The altered pattern of the response suggests that the nitric oxide-dependent portion may be accelerated in sympathectomized limbs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)685-690
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002


  • Laser-Doppler flowmetry
  • Regional blood flow
  • Skin
  • Sympathetic nervous system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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