1. In man evaluation of neural cardiovascular regulation makes use of a variety of tests which address the excitatory and reflex inhibitory neural influences that control circulation. Because interpretation of these tests is largely based on the magnitude of the elicited haemodynamic responses, their reproducibility in any given subject is critical.
2. In 39 subjects with continuous blood pressure (intra-arterial catheter) and heart rate monitoring we measured (i) the blood pressure and heart rate rises during hand-grip and cold-pressor test, (ii) the heart rate changes occurring during baroreceptor stimulation and deactivation by injection of phenylephrine and trinitroglycerine, and (iii) the heart rate and blood pressure changes occurring with alteration in carotid baroreceptor activity by a neck chamber. Each test was carefully standardized and performed at 30 min intervals for a total of six times in each subject.
3. The results showed that the responses to any test were clearly different from one another and that this occurred in all subjects studied. For the group as a whole the average response variability (coefficient of variation) ranged from 10.2% for the blood pressure response to carotid baroreceptor stimulation to 44.2% for the heart rate response to cold-pressor test. The variability of the responses was not related to basal blood pressure or heart rate, nor to the temporal sequence of the test performance.
4. Thus tests employed for studying neural cardiovascular control in man produce responses whose reproducibility is limited. This phenomenon may make it more difficult to define the response magnitude typical of each subject, as well as its comparison in different conditions and diseases.