Background: The purpose of this study was to investigate phosphocreatine (PCr) and inorganic phosphate levels as well as pH changes in exercising muscle at a workload of 4.5 W under progressive cuff stenoses, whereby the flow reduction due to cuff compression was quantified by flow-sensitive magnetic resonance imaging.
Methods: By using a whole-body 1.5-T magnetic resonance scanner and an exercise bench, serial phosphorus 31 (31P) magnetic resonance spectroscopy with a time resolution of 30 seconds was performed in 10 healthy men. Percentage changes in PCr, inorganic phosphate (Pi), and pH were statistically evaluated in comparison with baseline. The exercise protocol was characterized by a constant workload level of 4.5 W. Ischemic conditions were achieved by a cuff that was placed at the upper leg. Consecutively, increments of 0, 60, 90, 120, and 150 mm Hg were applied. Each increment lasted for 3 minutes. The following rest period was 10 minutes.
Results: Blood flow increased significantly immediately after the onset of muscle exercise. No significant changes in blood flow were detected as long as the air pressure of the pneumatic cuff was 60 to 90 mm Hg. Significant reductions in blood flow were observed immediately after inflation of the cuff to 120 and 150 mm Hg. PCr passed into a steady state during the first increment with 0 mm Hg and showed no substantial changes during the increment with 60, 90, and 120 mm Hg. PCr hydrolysis seemed progressive during the 150-mm Hg increment. Pi passed into a plateau level at the onset of exercise and increased significantly at the increment of 150 mm Hg. The pH turned into a steady state with no significant changes during the increments up to 120 mm Hg. At 150 mm Hg, pH decreased progressively. PCr levels at the end of the 150-mm Hg increment correlated significantly and moderately with the reduction in blood flow.
Conclusions: Our study shows that the ischemic condition during constant muscle exercise is clearly characterized by PCr and Pi kinetics, as well as by pH changes. The correlation between the degree of blood flow reduction and PCr levels in the exercising muscle groups, which are supplied by the stenosed arteries, is the first essential of using 31P magnetic resonance spectroscopy in the assessment of the effect of arterial stenoses on muscle function in claudicants.