The influence of circulating noradrenaline (in this context primarily a non-selective alpha agonist) and the alpha 1 selective agonist phenylephrine on bronchial tone, blood pressure, and heart rate was studied in eight patients with exercise induced asthma and eight age and sex matched controls. All subjects refrained from taking treatment for at least one week before the trial. The agonists were infused intravenously in stepwise increasing doses of 0.04, 0.085, 0.17, and 0.34 micrograms/kg a minute for noradrenaline and 0.5, 1.0, 2.0, and 4.0 micrograms/kg a minute for phenylephrine. At the highest dose the plasma concentration of noradrenaline was about 30 nmol/l, resembling the concentrations found during intense exercise, and that of phenylephrine was about 400 nmol/l. Both agonists caused dose dependent and similar increases in blood pressure in the two groups. Despite clearcut cardiovascular effects (systolic and diastolic blood pressure increased by about 40-50/25-30 mm Hg), neither agonist altered lung function, as assessed by measurements of specific airway compliance (sGaw), peak expiratory flow (PEF), or end expiratory flow rate, in either group. It is concluded that circulating alpha agonists, whether alpha 1 selective (phenylephrine) or non-selective (noradrenaline), fail to alter basal bronchial tone in patients with exercise induced asthma or in healthy subjects.
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