To assess the post-ischemic skin blood flow response after withdrawal of antihypertensive therapy in hypertensive patients with normal blood pressure during treatment.
Design and Methods
Twenty hypertensive patients (group A) with a normal clinic blood pressure (< 140/90 mmHg) receiving antihypertensive treatment (any monotherapy; one pill per day for at least 6 months) had their treatment discontinued. Before medication withdrawal and 2, 4, 12 and 24 weeks thereafter, the following measurements were made: clinic blood pressure, home blood pressure (three times per week, morning and evening) and skin blood flow response to a 5 min forearm arterial occlusion (using laser Doppler flowmetry). The patients were asked to perform an ambulatory blood pressure recording at any time if home blood pressure was ≥160/95 mmHg on two consecutive days, and treatment was initiated again, after determination of the skin hyperemic response, if daytime ambulatory blood pressure was ≥140/90 mmHg. The same studies were performed in 20 additional hypertensive individuals in whom antihypertensive treatment was not withdrawn (group B). The allocation of patients to groups A and B was random.
The data fom 18 patients in group A who adhered strictly to the procedure were available for analysis. Seven of them had to start treatment again within the first 4 weeks of follow-up; four additional patients started treatment again during the next 8 weeks (group A1). The seven other patients remained untreated (group A2). The skin hyperemic response decreased significantly in patients in group A1 and returned to baseline values at the end of the study, when there were again receiving antihypertensive treatment. In patients in group A2 a significant attenuation of the hyperemic response was also observed. This impaired response was present even at the end of the 6 month follow-up, at which time the patients were still untreated but exhibited a significantly greater blood pressure than before drug discontinuation. The hyperemic response of patients who did not stop treatment (group B) did not change during the course of the study.
Our findings show a decrease in the post-ischemic skin blood flow response after withdrawal of antihypertensive treatment in hypertensive patients. This impaired response may be due to the development of endothelial dysfunction, vascular remodeling, or both, and might contribute to the return of blood pressure to hypertensive values after withdrawal of antihypertensive therapy.