AIMS: To investigate the effects of the nitric oxide (NO) synthase inhibitor L-nitro-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME) on cerebral blood flow, and its response to alterations in arterial carbon dioxide tension (CBF-CO2 reactivity). METHODS: Cerebral blood flow was measured six times at varying arterial carbon dioxide tension (PaCO2) using the intravenous 133Xenon clearance technique in eight mechanically ventilated piglets of less than 24 hours postnatal age. After the third measurement L-NAME was administered as a bolus (20 mg/kg) and subsequently infused (10 mg/kg/hour). RESULTS: PaCO2 ranged between 2.7-8.9 kPa. Cerebral blood flow decreased by 14.0% (95% confidence interval 1.9-27.4) after L-NAME. CBF-CO2 reactivity was 18.4% per kPa (95% CI 14.1-22.2) before L-NAME and 15.2%/kPa (95% CI 11.1-19.3) afterwards; the difference between the CBF-CO2 reactivities was 3.2%/kPa (95% CI -0.4-6.8): these were not significantly different. CONCLUSIONS: Inhibition of nitric oxide synthesis reduces cerebral blood flow no more than a 0.5-1.0 kPa fall in PaCO2. Nitric oxide is not an important mediator of CBF-CO2 reactivity.
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