Impairment of cerebral blood flow regulation in astronauts with orthostatic intolerance after flight

Stroke. 2011 Jul;42(7):1844-50. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.110.610576. Epub 2011 May 26.


Background and purpose: We investigated cerebral blood flow regulation in astronauts before and after flights. We hypothesized that autoregulation would be different before flight and after flight between nonfinishers and the finishers of a stand test.

Methods: Twenty-seven astronauts from shuttle missions lasting 8 to 16 days underwent a 10-minute stand test: 10 days before flight, 1 to 2 hours and 3 days after landing. Mean blood flow velocity of the middle cerebral artery (MCA) was measured using transcranial Doppler; Mean arterial pressure was measured using a Finapres (Ohmeda, Englewood, CO) and was adjusted to the level of the MCA (BP(MCA)). Cross-spectral power, gain, phase, and coherence were determined for the relation between BP(MCA) and the cerebrovascular resistance index mean blood flow velocity/BP(MCA).

Results: BP(MCA) was reduced with stand (P<0.001). Differences between finishers and nonfinishers (P=0.011) and over test days (P=0.004) were observed. Cerebrovascular conductance was affected by stand (P<0.001), by group (P<0.001) with a group by stand, and test day interaction (P<0.01). Preflight data suggest that the nonfinishers were operating at a higher cerebral vasodilation than finishers for a given BP(MCA), and on landing day the nonfinishers had a greater decrease in mean blood flow velocity as a function of BP(MCA) with standing compared to finishers and preflight. There was a significant interaction effect of gender over the test days and from supine to stand (P=0.035).

Conclusions: Our results indicate that the cause of presyncope in astronauts may be related to a mismatch of cerebral blood flow with blood pressure. Astronaut gender may also play a role in susceptibility to orthostatic intolerance after flight.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Astronauts*
  • Blood Circulation Time
  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Cerebral Artery / diagnostic imaging
  • Orthostatic Intolerance / diagnosis*
  • Orthostatic Intolerance / epidemiology
  • Sex Factors
  • Space Flight
  • Syncope / etiology
  • Time Factors
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler / methods