Spinal cord injury (SCI) impairs the cardiovascular responses to postural challenge, leading to the development of orthostatic hypotension (OH). Here, we apply lower body negative pressure (LBNP) to rodents with high-level SCI to demonstrate the usefulness of LBNP as a model for experimental OH studies, and to explore the effect of simulated OH on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular function following SCI. Male Wistar rats (n = 34) were subjected to a sham or T3-SCI surgery and survived into the chronic period postinjury (i.e., 8 wk). Cardiac function was tracked via ultrasound pre- to post-SCI to demonstrate the clinical utility of our model. At study termination, we conducted left-ventricular (LV) catheterization and insonated the middle cerebral artery to investigate the hemodynamic, cardiac, and cerebrovascular response to a mild dose of LBNP that is sufficient to mimic clinically defined OH in rats with T3-SCI but not sham animals. In response to mimicked OH, there was a greater decline in stroke volume, cardiac output, maximal LV pressure, and blood pressure in SCI compared with sham (P < 0.034), whereas heart rate was increased in sham but decreased in SCI (P < 0.029). SCI animals also had an exaggerated reduction in peak, minimum and mean middle cerebral artery flow, for a given change in blood pressure, in response to LBNP (P < 0.033), implying impaired dynamic cerebral autoregulation. Using a preclinical SCI model of OH, we demonstrate that complete high thoracic SCI impairs the cardiac response to OH and disrupts dynamic cerebral autoregulation.NEW & NOTEWORTHY This is the first use of LBNP to interrogate the cardiac and cerebrovascular responses to simulated OH in a preclinical study of SCI. Here, we demonstrate the utility of our simulated OH model and use it to demonstrate that SCI impairs the cardiac response to simulated OH and disrupts dynamic cerebrovascular autoregulation.
Keywords: cardiac function; dynamic cerebral autoregulation; lower body negative pressure; orthostatic hypotension; spinal cord injury.