1. Central blood volume and total blood volume were determined in spontaneously hypertensive rats and Wistar-Kyoto rats at two ages (6 and 12 weeks), representing ‘borderline’ hypertension and early ‘established’ hypertension.
2. A technique was used where plasma and erythrocyte indicators were injected into conscious rats. Blood volume in the cardiopulmonary compartment, present in the ‘resting’ awake steady state, could then be estimated by sudden freezing of the entire rat.
3. Twelve week-old spontaneously hypertensive rats showed a decreased total blood volume, and the fraction of blood contained in the cardiopulmonary area was significantly increased compared with that of normotensive Wistar-Kyoto rats.
4. In 6 week-old spontaneously hypertensive rats, total blood volume was only marginally decreased but here also a tendency towards centralization of the blood was seen.
5. Thus, along with the development of spontaneously hypertensive rat hypertension, a decreasing blood volume tends to become increasingly centralized to the cardiopulmonary area. Both neuro-hormonal influences and structural wall changes in the low-pressure capacitance side may contribute to this.