This study sought to determine whether nitric oxide-mediated vasodilation is abnormal in patients with noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Background. Multiple investigations, both in experimental models and in patients with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, demonstrate impaired endothelium-dependent vasodilation. Decreased availability of endothelium-derived nitric oxide may contribute to the high prevalence of vascular disease in diabetes. Methods. Vascular reactivity was measured in the forearm resistance vessels of 21 patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and 23 matched healthy control subjects. No patient had hypertension or hypercholesterolemia. Each subject was pretreated with aspirin to inhibit endogenous production of vasoactive prostanoids. Methacholine chloride (0.3 to 10 μg/min) was administered through a brachial artery cannula to assess vasodilation to endothelium-derived nitric oxide. Sodium nitroprusside (0.3 to 10 μg/min) was infused to evaluate vasodilation to an exogenous nitric oxide donor. Verapamil (10 to 300 μg/min) was administered to distinguish impaired nitric oxide-mediated vasodilation from general dysfunction of vascular smooth muscle. Forearm blood flow was determined by venous occlusion plethysmography, and dose-response curves were generated for each agent. To assess the role of vasoconstrictor prostanoids, a subset of eight diabetic subjects were reexamined in the absence of aspirin treatment. Results. Basal forearm blood flow in diabetic and nondiabetic subjects was comparable. The forearm blood flow responses to both methacholine chloride and nitroprusside were significantly attenuated in diabetic compared with nondiabetic subjects (p <0.005 by analysis of variance for both agents). In contrast, the response to verapamil was not significantly different between the groups (p > 0.50). The forearm blood flow responses to these agents were not significantly affected by cyclooxygenase inhibition. Conclusions. Nitric oxide-mediated vasodilation is impaired in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Vasoconstrictor prostanoids do not contribute significantly to vascular dysfunction. The attenuated response to exogenous as well as endogenous nitric oxide donors suggests that the abnormality is due to increased inactivation of nitric oxide or to decreased reactivity of the vascular smooth muscle to nitric oxide.
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