1. In order to obtain direct information on the properties of the resistance vasculature of patients with advanced uraemia, a technique was developed to dissect out small arteries (internal diameter about 165 μm) from biopsies of subcutaneous fat.
2. Such arteries responded in a concentration-dependent manner to noradrenaline and angiotensin II, and the maximal force developed suggested that the vessels were fully viable.
3. Although the biopsies were normally taken during operations under general anaesthesia, biopsies taken under local anaesthesia also appeared to be fully viable, suggesting that this technique may prove useful as a general method for studying the intrinsic vascular properties of humans.
4. Biopsies were taken from 20 patients with uraemia, all of whom were treated with chronic intermittent dialysis, and 11 control subjects; up to three vessels were examined per biopsy.
5. The uraemic state was not associated with changes in vascular morphology, or in vascular reactivity or sensitivity to noradrenaline, angiotensin II, potassium or calcium. However, for the uraemic patients and for the controls there was a positive correlation between mean blood pressure and the ratio of vessel media thickness to lumen diameter, as well as a negative correlation between mean blood pressure and vessel active media stress.
6. The results suggest that uraemia treated with dialysis may not be associated with altered properties of the resistance vasculature. However, it appears that uraemic hypertension is associated with both morphological and functional abnormalities of the resistance vasculature.