Sepsis is characterized by increased microvascular permeability and regional variations in capillary perfusion, which may be modulated by nitric oxide (NO) and reversed by fluid resuscitation (FR). The effects of saline FR and NO synthase blockade [by NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME)] on microvascular albumin transport and perfused capillary density were assessed in anaesthetized Wistar rats with acute normodynamic endotoxaemia. Separate dual-isotope techniques were employed to measure the permeability index (PIA) and the permeability×surface area product index (PIB), which provide different and complementary information regarding blood–tissue albumin exchange. PIA represents the tissue/blood distribution volume ratio of albumin. PIB is a composite measure of endothelial permeability and the vascular surface area available for albumin exchange, and therefore takes into account the effect of altered blood volume. Capillary density was quantified by fluorescence microscopy following circulation of Evans Blue-labelled albumin. Compared with controls, PIA was reduced significantly in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-treated animals in skeletal muscle and skin, probably due to blood volume redistribution rather than to changes in permeability. PIB was increased significantly in LPS-treated animals in the kidney, mesentery, skeletal muscle, skin and lung, and in the small bowel following FR. FR also improved the LPS-induced metabolic base deficit, but did not alter capillary density. L-NAME significantly attenuated the LPS-induced rise in PIB in the lung. In conclusion, acute endotoxaemia induces tissue-dependent variations in microvascular albumin exchange. FR improves acid–base disturbance in endotoxaemia, through mechanisms other than microvascular recruitment. NO appears to increase microvascular permeability in endotoxaemia, an effect that may be attenuated by L-NAME, particularly in the lung.

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