Plasma volume is reduced by 10-20% within 24-48 h of exposure to simulated or actual microgravity. The clinical importance of microgravity-induced hypovolemia is manifested by its relationship with orthostatic intolerance and reduced maximal oxygen uptake (˙VO2max) after return to one gravity(1G). Since there is no evidence to suggest that plasma volume reduction during microgravity is associated with thirst or renal dysfunctions, a diuresis induced by an immediate blood volume shift to the central circulation appears responsible for microgravity-induced hypovolemia. Since most astronauts choose to restrict their fluid intake before a space mission, absence of increased urine output during actual space flight may be explained by low central venous pressure (CVP) which accompanies dehydration. Compelling evidence suggests that prolonged reduction in CVP during exposure to microgravity reflects a “resetting” to a lower operating point, which acts to limit plasma volume expansion during attempts to increase fluid intake. In groundbased and space flight experiments, successful restoration and maintenance of plasma volume prior to returning to an upright posture may depend upon development of treatments that can return CVP to its baseline 1G operating point. Fluid-loading and lower body negative pressure (LBNP) have not proved completely effective in restoring plasma volume, suggesting that they may not provide the stimulus to elevate the CVP operating point. On the other hand, exercise, which can chronically increase CVP, has been effective in expanding plasma volume when combined with adequate dietary intake of fluid and electrolytes. The success of designing experiments to understand the physiological mechanisms of and development of effective counter-measures for the control of plasma volume in microgravity and during return to 1G will depend upon testing that can be conducted under standardized controlled baseline conditions during both ground-based and space flight investigations.
Physiology Research Branch, Clinical Sciences Division, Brooks Air Force Base, TX 78235
Submitted for publication December 1995.
Accepted for publication May 1996.
Portions of the data presented in this manuscript were supported in part by NASA grants administered under contract NAS9-611 and NAS10-10285.
Address for correspondence: Victor A. Convertino, Ph.D., Physiology Research Branch, Clinical Sciences Division, AL/AOCY, 2507 Kennedy Circle, Brooks Air Force Base, TX 78235-5117.