, Volume 109, Issue 2, pp 141-157,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 07 Jan 2010

A definition of normovolaemia and consequences for cardiovascular control during orthostatic and environmental stress

Abstract

The Frank–Starling mechanism describes the relationship between stroke volume and preload to the heart, or the volume of blood that is available to the heart—the central blood volume. Understanding the role of the central blood volume for cardiovascular control has been complicated by the fact that a given central blood volume may be associated with markedly different central vascular pressures. The central blood volume varies with posture and, consequently, stroke volume and cardiac output ( \( \dot{Q} \) ) are affected, but with the increased central blood volume during head-down tilt, stroke volume and \( \dot{Q} \) do not increase further indicating that in the supine resting position the heart operates on the plateau of the Frank–Starling curve which, therefore, may be taken as a functional definition of normovolaemia. Since the capacity of the vascular system surpasses the blood volume, orthostatic and environmental stress including bed rest/microgravity, exercise and training, thermal loading, illness, and trauma/haemorrhage is likely to restrict venous return and \( \dot{Q} \) . Consequently the cardiovascular responses are determined primarily by their effect on the central blood volume. Thus during environmental stress, flow redistribution becomes dependent on sympathetic activation affecting not only skin and splanchnic blood flow, but also flow to skeletal muscles and the brain. This review addresses the hypothesis that deviations from normovolaemia significantly influence these cardiovascular responses.

Communicated by Susan Ward.