Although abnormalities in the control of endothelial vasomotility have been reported in both experimental and clinical studies, the mechanism of the endothelial dysfunction that occurs following subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) remains unclear. Because of the absence of previous in vivo studies of endothelial function in cerebral vessels in response to SAH or cerebral vasospasm, the authors investigated endothelium—dependent responses in an established primate model of vasospasm after SAH. Endothelial function was assessed by examining vascular responses to intracarotid injections of various drugs known to act via the endothelium. Drugs that have a rapid total body clearance were selected so that their pharmacological effects would be limited to the cerebral circulation after an intracarotid infusion.
Seventeen adult male cynomolgus monkeys were used. Cerebrovascular endothelium—dependent responses were examined in control animals and in animals with SAH 7, 14, and 21 days after placement of a subarachnoid clot around the right middle cerebral artery. Cortical cerebral blood flow (CBF) and cerebrovascular resistance (CVR) were recorded continuously during 5-minute intracarotid infusions of 5% dextrose vehicle, acetylcholine, histamine, bradykinin, or Calcimycin.
In control animals the intracarotid infusion of acetylcholine produced a significant (7.8 ± 9.5%) increase in CBF and a 9.3 ± 8.7% reduction in CVR in comparison with a control infusion of dextrose vehicle. The responses to acetylcholine disappeared in animals 7 days post-SAH, specifically in the subset of animals in which arteriography confirmed the presence of vasospasm. Infusion of Calcimycin produced no significant changes in CBF or CVR in control animals, but resulted in a significant reduction in CBF and increase in CVR in animals 7 days after SAH and in animals with vasospasm. An infusion of histamine or bradykinin had no significant effect on CBF or CVR.
An intracarotid infusion of acetylcholine, but not one of histamine, bradykinin, or Calcimycin, produced a measurable physiological response in the normal primate cerebrovasculature. Cerebral vasospasm that occurred after SAH produced a pathophysiological effect similar to the endothelial denudation shown in the in vitro experiments of Furchgott and Zawadzki, in which acetylcholine constricted the vessels via activation of receptors on smooth-muscle cells. Changes in vascular responses to acetylcholine and Calcimycin in animals with vasospasm, compared with control animals, provide evidence that endothelial dysfunction plays a key role in the development and/or sustenance of vasospasm after SAH.