1. In patients with congestive heart failure, both the sympathetic nervous system and renin-angiotensin system are often stimulated. In order to assess the contribution of the renin-angiotensin system to limb vascular resistance, the forearm haemodynamic response to captopril was studied in 13 patients with heart failure.

2. Seven subjects were studied while supine and during 60° head-up tilt. To eliminate α-adrenergic effects, six additional patients with heart failure were pretreated with intra-arterial phentolamine and then given captopril. Venous occlusion plethysmography was used to determine forearm blood flew and forearm vascular resistance.

3. Tilt did not significantly increase pretreatment plasma renin activity or plasma noradrenaline concentration, nor did it decrease forearm blood flow. Furthermore, captopril did not alter forearm vascular resistance during supine or upright posture. During the phentolamine infusion, however, captopril reduced forearm vascular resistance by 19% (P < 0.05).

4. Despite increased plasma renin activity, captopril did not cause forearm vasodilatation during supine or upright posture in these patients with heart failure. When the contribution of the sympathetic nervous system was eliminated, captopril decreased forearm vascular resistance. Therefore, in patients with congestive heart failure, the sympathetic nervous system is important in limb vasoregulation, and the contribution of the renin-angiotensin system is apparent only after α-adrenergic blockade.

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