The decrease in pre-capillary resistance in the human calf during gradual cumulative increases in venous congestion pressure has been proposed to represent vasodilator signalling between the venous and arterial microcirculations. The present study investigated whether prostaglandins are involved in this local flow regulation by measuring calf blood flow and microvascular filtration capacity using strain gauge plethysmography in young male subjects before (baseline) and after taking either ibuprofen, an inhibitor of prostaglandin synthesis (1600 mg over 2 days), or placebo. At baseline, inflation of a thigh cuff to 50 mmHg in steps of 10 mmHg, each held for 5 min, did not decrease arterial inflow, confirming a reduction of pre-capillary resistance. Ibuprofen reduced resting calf blood flow by 35% (P<0.001), but flow at a Pcuff (cuff pressure) of 50 mmHg was 97% of this value, i.e. pre-capillary resistance had decreased to the same extent as before inhibition of prostaglandin synthesis. Ibuprofen also reduced microvascular filtration capacity (2.98±1.20 compared with 3.71±0.89 ml·min−1·100 ml−1·mmHg−1×10−3; P<0.05), probably due to a combination of reduced arterial inflow and lower venous pressure (8.5±5.2 compared with 12.6±2.8 mmHg; P<0.05) that moderated capillary hydrostatic pressure to override direct effects of inhibition of prostaglandin synthesis on permeability. Placebo was without effect on any measurement. It is unlikely therefore that prostaglandin-mediated vasodilator signals, which have been demonstrated between paired veins and arteries, are important in local vasodilation in response to venous congestion.

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