We examined the effects of pressure overload on coronary circulation in young adult (7 months old) and old rats (18 months old). Four weeks after the ascending aorta was banded, in vivo left ventricular pressure was measured to estimate the degree of pressure load. In the two age groups, similar increases in peak left ventricular pressure were observed (113 ± 7 mm Hg in sham-operated rats versus 160 ± 11 mm Hg in banded rats of the young adult group; 103 ± 7 mm Hg in sham-operated rats versus 156 ± 11 mm Hg in banded rats of the old group). After isolating the hearts, they were perfused with Tyrode's solution containing bovine red blood cells and albumin. Resting coronary perfusion pressure-flow relations and reactive hyperemic response after a 40-second ischemia were obtained under beating but nonworking conditions. In young adult banded rats, significant myocardial hypertrophy was observed at the organ level (124% of controls in left ventricular dry weight/body weight ratio; 119% in left ventricular dry weight/tibial length ratio) and at the cell level. Minimal coronary vascular resistance obtained by the perfusion pressure-peak flow relation during reactive hyperemia increased to 150% of controls, and coronary flow reserve decreased significantly. In contrast, myocardial hypertrophy was not observed at the organ or cell level in old banded rats. However, minimal coronary vascular resistance increased, and flow reserve decreased significantly. Thus, pressure overload with coronary arterial hypertension caused abnormalities of the coronary circulation in old subjects even in the absence of myocardial hypertrophy. These coronary vascular changes as well as diminished hypertrophic response may explain the high incidence of heart failure or ischemic episodes during chronic hemodynamic stress in aged patients.
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