Physiol. Res. 52: 439-445, 2003

Microvascular Reactivity in Patients with Hypercholesterolemia: Effect of Lipid Lowering Treatment


Third Department of Internal Medicine, First Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

Received  July 4, 2002
Accepted September 30, 2002

Impaired NO-dependent vasodilation of resistance vessels is an early marker of an increased risk of atherosclerosis; utility of the examination of microcirculation, however, is far less established. We have therefore tested the hypothesis that hypercholesterolemia is associated with an impaired microvascular reactivity and that this defect is at least partially reversible by lipid-lowering treatment. Twenty-seven otherwise healthy patients with severe hypercholesterolemia (HLP) were examined at rest and then after 10 weeks of atorvastatin treatment (20 mg/day). Skin microvascular reactivity (MVR) was examined by laser-Doppler flowmetry. Baseline MVR values of the studied group were compared to healthy control subjects, HLP patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) and diabetic patients with and without diabetic retinopathy. MVR was normal in HLP subjects without CAD. On the contrary, MVR was impaired in HLP patients with CAD. There was no effect of atorvastatin on MVR, despite the profound reduction of serum lipids. MVR values did not correlate with cholesterol levels. In diabetic subjects, the MVR was substantially impaired only in patients with retinopathy. In the subjects without retinopathy, MVR was either normal (type I diabetes) or moderately impaired (type II diabetes). MVR was thus normal in HLP patients without manifest vascular disease and was not influenced by lipid lowering therapy. Impairment in the MVR was only evident in subjects with HLP and severe CAD. These results suggest that microcirculation is not involved in the early vascular dysfunction induced by HLP and that MVR rather reflects changes which appear later in the course of the atherosclerotic disease.

Key words
Hypercholesterolemia • Microcirculation • Cholesterol lowering • Endothelial dysfunction • Laser-Doppler

Reprint requests
Tomáš Štulc, MD., Third Department of Internal Medicine, U nemocnice 1, Prague 2, Czech Republic. E-mail:

© 2003 by the Institute of Physiology, Czech Academy of Sciences