Effects of age and gender on cardiovascular responses to phenylephrine

Michael J. Turner, Constance M. Mier, Robert J. Spina, Ali A. Ehsani

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9 Scopus citations


Background. The age-associated impairment in left ventricular (LV) systolic function appears to be mostly detectable during exercise or sympathetic stimulation. We hypothesized that the decline in cardiac function could be unmasked by an acute increase in afterload induced by phenylephrine. We further sought to examine whether the deterioration in cardiac function is influenced by gender. Methods. We studied 17 young (20-31 years old) and 21 older healthy subjects (60-75 years old) who were given infusions of incremental doses of phenylephrine following cardiac muscarinic receptor blockade with atropine. Left ventricular systolic function was assessed with 2-D echocardiography. Results. The young subjects exhibited a paradoxical increase in heart rate in response to α-adrenergic stimulation, but the older subjects did not (p < .01). The increase in systolic blood pressure in response to PhenylePhrine was influenced by age and gender (i.e., greater in the younger men and older women), whereas the increase in diastolic blood pressure was greater in the younger than the older subjects of both sexes. The changes in LV end-diastolic diameter with phenylephrine were unaffected by age or gender. The slope of the systolic shortening-end systolic wall stress relationship was significantly steeper in the older subjects, suggesting a decline in the contractile response to an acute increase in afterload with aging. Conclusions. This study's findings suggest that age can significantly influence the cardiovascular responses to α-adrenergic stimulation and that phenylephrine, by acutely increasing afterload, is effective in unmasking the age-associated deterioration in left ventricular systolic function. Further, it appears that the increase in systolic blood pressure in response to an α-adrenergic challenge is significantly influenced not only by age but also by gender.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)M17-M24
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1999

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