1. Local regulation of subcutaneous blood flow in the forearm was studied in the acute phase of myocardial infarction. Blood flow was measured by the local 133Xe-washout technique.
2. Plasma concentrations of noradrenaline and adrenaline were increased on day 1, suggesting an increase in sympathetic neuronal activity, but gradually returned to normal thereafter.
3. Subcutaneous blood flow on day 1 was far below normal (38%) and steadily increased to reach normal at day 7 after coronary occlusion. The sympathetic vasoconstrictor activity that caused the initial reduction in flow could be blocked by proximal nervous blockade, increasing the subcutaneous blood flow by 130, 63 and 14% on days 1, 3 and 7 respectively after coronary occlusion. A normal response to decrease in arterial perfusion pressure was observed, suggesting that intrinsic vascular reactions responsible for autoregulation of blood flow were not affected by the increase in sympathetic vasoconstrictor activity. The vasoconstrictor response to increase in venous transmural pressure could not be demonstrated on day 1 after coronary occlusion but gradually reappeared during the following days.
4. Abolition of the vasoconstrictor response is most likely to be due to a centrally elicited increase in sympathetic activity, as a normal vasoconstrictor response was obtained after proximal nervous blockade. Thus the local sympathetic reflex mechanism underlying the vasoconstrictor response appears to be suppressed by a centrally elicited increase in sympathetic discharge rate.