Circulatory adaptations resulting in postflight orthostasis have frequently been observed in response to space travel. It has been postulated that a decrement in left ventricular mass (LVM) found after microgravity exposure may be the central component in this cardiovascular deconditioning. However, a physiologic mechanism responsible for these changes in the myocardium has not been determined. In this study, we examined the sequential alterations in echocardiographic measured LVM from preflight to landing day and 3 days into the postflight recovery period. In a previous study in returning astronauts we found a comparative 9.1% reduction in postflight LVM that returned to preflight values by the third day of recovery. This data was further evaluated in a systems analysis approach using a well-established advanced computer model of circulatory functioning. The computer model incorporates the physiologic responses to changes in pressures, flows and hydraulics within the circulatory system as affected by gravitational forces. Myocardial muscle progression to atrophy or hypertrophy in reaction to the circulatory load conditions is also included in the model. The integrative computer analysis suggests that these variations in LVM could be explained by simple fluid shifts known to occur during spaceflight and can reverse within a few days after reentry into earth's gravity. According to model predictions, the reductions in LVM found upon exposure to microgravity are a result of a contraction of the myocardial interstitial fluid space secondary to a loss in the plasma volume. This hypothesis was additionally supported by the published ground-based study in which we followed the alterations in LVM and plasma volume in normal subjects in which hypovolemia was induced by simple dehydration. In the hypovolemic state, plasma volume was reduced in these subjects and was significantly correlated with echocardiographic measurements of LVM. Based on these experimental findings and the performance of the computer systems analysis it appears that reductions in LVM observed after spaceflight may be secondary to fluid exchanges produced by common physiologic mechanisms. Reductions in LVM observed after microgravity exposure have been previously postulated to be a central component of spaceflight-induced cardiovascular deconditioning. However, a recent study has demonstrated a return of astronauts’ LVM to preflight values by the third day after landing through uncertain mechanisms. A systems analysis approach using computer simulation techniques allows for a dissection of the complex physiologic control processes and a more detailed examination of the phenomena. From the simulation studies and computer analysis it appears that microgravity induced reductions in LVM may be explained by considering physiologic fluid exchanges rather than cardiac muscle atrophy.
Computers in Biology and Medicine – Elsevier
Published: Mar 1, 2007
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