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Reactive Hyperemia and Cardiovascular Autonomic Neuropathy in Type 2 Diabetic Patients

A Systematic Review of Randomized and Nonrandomized Clinical Trials

Medicina (Kaunas).2023 Apr 16;59(4):770.


Objective: This work aimed to determine the relationship between the autonomic nervous system and reactive hyperemia (RH) in type 2 diabetes patients with and without cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy (CAN).

Methodology: A systematic review of randomized and nonrandomized clinical studies characterizing reactive hyperemia and autonomic activity in type 2 diabetes patients with and without CAN was performed.

Results: Five articles showed differences in RH between healthy subjects and diabetic patients with and/or without neuropathy, while one study did not show such differences between healthy subjects and diabetic patients, but patients with diabetic ulcers had lower RH index values compared to healthy controls. Another study found no significant difference in blood flow after a muscle strain that induced reactive hyperemia between normal subjects and non-smoking diabetic patients. Four studies measured reactive hyperemia using peripheral arterial tonometry (PAT); only two found a significantly lower endothelial-function-derived measure of PAT in diabetic patients than in those without CAN. Four studies measured reactive hyperemia using flow-mediated dilation (FMD), but no significant differences were reported between diabetic patients with and without CAN. Two studies measured RH using laser Doppler techniques; one of them found significant differences in the blood flow of calf skin after stretching between diabetic non-smokers and smokers. The diabetic smokers had neurogenic activity at baseline that was significantly lower than that of the normal subjects. The greatest evidence revealed that the differences in RH between diabetic patients with and without CAN may depend on both the method used to measure hyperemia and that applied for the ANS examination as well as the type of autonomic deficit present in the patients.

Conclusions: In diabetic patients, there is a deterioration in the vasodilator response to the reactive hyperemia maneuver compared to healthy subjects, which depends in part on endothelial and autonomic dysfunction. Blood flow alterations in diabetic patients during RH are mainly mediated by sympathetic dysfunction. The greatest evidence suggests a relationship between ANS and RH; however, there are no significant differences in RH between diabetic patients with and without CAN, as measured using FMD. When the flow of the microvascular territory is measured, the differences between diabetics with and without CAN become evident. Therefore, RH measured using PAT may reflect diabetic neuropathic changes with greater sensitivity compared to FMD.

Keywords: autonomic nervous system; cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy; diabetic autonomic neuropathy; heart rate variability; reactive hyperemia; type 2 diabetes mellitus.


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