Exaggerated inspiratory swings in intrathoracic pressure have been postulated to increase left ventricular (LV) afterload. These predictions are based on measurements of LV afterload by use of esophageal or lateral pleural pressure. Using direct measurements of pericardial pressure, we reexamined respiratory changes in LV afterload. In 11 anesthetized vagotomized dogs, we measured arterial pressure, LV end-systolic (ES) and end-diastolic transmural (TM) pressures, stroke volume (SV), diastolic left anterior descending blood flow (CBF-D), and coronary resistance. Dogs were studied before and while breathing against an inspiratory threshold load of -20 to -25 cmH2O compared with end expiration. Relative to end expiration, SV and LVES TM pressures decreased during inspiration and increased during early expiration, effects exaggerated during inspiratory loading. In all cases, LV afterload (LVES TM pressure) changed in parallel with SV. LV end-diastolic TM pressure did not change. CBF-D paralleled arterial pressure, and there were no changes in coronary resistance. In two dogs, regional LVES segment length paralleled calculated changes in LVES TM pressure. We conclude that 1) LV afterload decreases during early inspiration and increases during early expiration, changes secondary to those in SV; 2) changes in CBF-D are secondary to changes in perfusion pressure during the respiratory cycle; and 3) the use of esophageal or lateral pleural pressure to estimate LV surface pressure overestimates changes in LV TM pressures during respiration.
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