2003 Volume 93 Issue 4 Pages 399-404
The vascular endothelium is involved in the release of various vasodilators, including nitric oxide (NO), prostaglandins, and endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor as well as vasoconstrictors. NO plays an important role in the regulation of vascular tone, the inhibition of platelet aggregation, and the suppression of smooth muscle cell proliferation. Several diseases are associated with changes in endothelial function mediated through reduced NO bioavailability. In addition, endothelial dysfunction is an early feature of atherosclerosis and vascular diseases in humans. Therefore, it is clinically important to estimate the degree of endothelial dysfunction. Several methods have been used to assess endothelial function in humans. Recently, we have evaluated the effects of intra-arterial infusion of infusion of NO agonists, such as acetylcholine, methacholine, and bradykinin, and NO antagonists on forearm blood flow using mercury-filled Silastic strain-gauge plethysmography. The response to the intra-arterial infusion of vasoactive agents should be considered the gold standard in assessing endothelial function, because the use of agonists to stimulate NO release allow us to draw more specific conclusions concerning the role of basal and stimulated NO release. However, the invasive method is time-consuming and is a burden for patients. A noninvasive method of measuring forearm blood flow response to reactive hyperemia also is useful in assessing endothelial function. In this review we would like to explain in detail the methods of assessing endothelial function in humans using strain-gauge plethysmography.