Pneumatic antishock garment inflation activates the human sympathetic nervous system by abdominal compression

Nathan M. Garvin, Benjamin D. Levine, Peter B. Raven, James Anthony Pawelczyk

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Pneumatic antishock garments (PASG) have been proposed to exert their blood pressure-raising effect mechanically, i.e. by increasing venous return and vascular resistance of the lower body. We tested whether, alternatively, PASG inflation activates the sympathetic nervous system. Five men and four women wore PASG while mean arterial pressure (MAP), muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA), heart rate and stroke volume were measured. One leg bladder (LEG) and the abdominal bladder (ABD) of the trousers were inflated individually and in combination (ABD+LEG), at 60 or 90 mmHg for 3 min. By the end of 3 min of inflation, conditions that included the ABD region caused significant increases in MAP in a dose-dependent fashion (7 ± 2, 8 ± 3, 14 ± 4 and 13 ± 5 mmHg for ABD60, ABD+LEG60, ABD90 and ABD+LEG90, respectively, P < 0.05). Likewise, inflation that included ABD caused significant increases in total MSNA compared with control values [306 ± 70, 426 ± 98 and 247 ± 79 units for ABD60, ABD90 and ABD+LEG90, respectively, P < 0.05 (units = burst frequency × burst amplitude]. There were no changes in MAP or MSNA in the LEG-alone conditions. The ABD inflation also caused a significant decrease in stroke volume (-11 ± 3 and -10 ± 3 ml per beat in ABD90 and ABD+LEG90, respectively, P < 0.05) with no change in cardiac output. Neither cardiopulmonary receptor deactivation nor mechanical effects can account for a slowly developing rise in both sympathetic activity and blood pressure during ABD inflation. Rather, these data provide direct evidence that PASG inflation activates the sympathetic nervous system secondarily to abdominal, but not leg, compression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-110
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2014


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Physiology (medical)

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