Septic shock induces distinct changes in sympathetic nerve activity to the heart and kidney in conscious sheep

Rohit Ramchandra, Li Wan, Sally G. Hood, Robert Frithiof, Rinaldo Bellomo, Clive N. May

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Sepsis and septic shock are the chief cause of death in intensive care units, with mortality rates between 30 and 70%. In a large animal model of septic shock, we have demonstrated hypotension, increased cardiac output, and tachycardia, together with renal vasodilatation and renal failure. The changes in cardiac sympathetic nerve activity (CSNA) that may contribute to the tachycardia have not been investigated, and the changes in renal SNA (RSNA) that may mediate the changes in renal blood flow and function are unclear. We therefore recorded CSNA and RSNA during septic shock in conscious sheep. Septic shock was induced by administration of Escherichia coli, which caused a delayed hypotension and an immediate, biphasic increase in heart rate (HR) associated with similar changes in CSNA. After E. coli, RSNA decreased for over 3 h, followed by a sustained increase (180%), whereas renal blood flow progressively increased and remained elevated. There was an initial diuresis, followed by oliguria and decreased creatinine clearance. There were differential changes in the range of the arterial baroreflex curves; it was depressed for HR, increased for CSNA, and unchanged for RSNA. Our findings, recording CSNA for the first time in septic shock, suggest that the increase in SNA to the heart is not driven solely by unloading of baroreceptors and that the increase has an important role to increase HR and cardiac output. There was little correlation between the changes in RSNA and renal blood flow, suggesting that the renal vasodilatation was mediated mainly by other mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute renal failure
  • Renal blood flow

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