, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 343-346

Endothelium-dependent and endothelium-independent skin vasoreactivity in the elderly

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Background and aims: It was demonstrated that endothelium-dependent vasoreactivity, an aspect of endothelial functioning, is impaired in coronary and brachial arteries, and in skeletal muscle resistance vessels of elderly people. However, little data is available about the influence of aging per se on the endothelial function of the skin microcirculation. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the endothelial function and intrinsic vasodilatory capacity of the skin microcirculation in elderly people with a low atherosclerosis risk profile. Methods: Using laser Doppler flowmetry, we measured the cutaneous hyperemic responses following local iontophoresis delivery of an endothelium-dependent vasodilator, acetylcholine (ACh), and an endothelium-independent vasodilator, sodium nitroprusside (SNP), in 15 subjects older than 65 years and in 15 subjects younger than 50 years. Exclusion criteria were diabetes, hyperlipidemia, smoking, arterial hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. Results: Skin maximal hyperemic responses induced both by ACh and by SNP delivery did not differ between the younger and the older groups. Cutaneous blood flow progressively increased in response to the 8 ACh delivery steps, both in the older and younger groups; however, the dose-response curve following ACh delivery was significantly lower in the former (p<0.001). Conclusions: While these results should be viewed as preliminary due to the small sample size, they suggest that aging in itself is associated with a mild endothelium dysfunction in the skin microcirculation, whereas its overall vasodilatory capacity is preserved.