Experimental Physiology

Full Length Papers

The effects of primary thoracic blast injury and morphine on the response to haemorrhage in the anaesthetised rat

M. Sawdon a1, M. Ohnishi a1, P. E. Watkins a2 and E. Kirkman a1
a1 School for Health, University of Durham, Queen's Campus, Stockton, University Boulevard, Stockton on Tees TS17 6BH and a2 Biomedical Sciences, DSTL, Porton Down, Salisbury SP4 0JQ, UK


Primary thoracic blast injury causes a triad of bradycardia, hypotension and apnoea mediated in part via a vagal reflex. Blast casualties may also suffer blood loss, and the response to progressive simple haemorrhage is biphasic: an initial tachycardia followed by a vagally mediated reflex bradycardia which can be attenuated by µ opioid agonists. The aims of this study were to determine the effects of thoracic blast injury on the response to subsequent haemorrhage, and the effects of morphine, administered after blast, on the response to blood loss. Male Wistar rats, terminally anaesthetised with alphadolone-alphaxolone (19-21 mg kg-1 h-1 I.V.), were allocated randomly to one of three groups: Group I, sham blast; Group II, thoracic blast; Group III, thoracic blast plus morphine (0.5 mg kg-1 I.V. given 5 min after blast). Blast (Groups II and III) resulted in significant (P < 0.05, ANOVA) bradycardia, hypotension and apnoea. Sham blast (Group I) had no effect. Ten minutes later, haemorrhage (40 % of the estimated total blood volume (BV)) in Group I produced a biphasic response comprising a tachycardia followed by a peak bradycardia after the loss of 33 % BV. Arterial blood pressure did not fall significantly until the loss of 13.3 % BV. In Group II the haemorrhage-induced tachycardia was absent and the bradycardia was augmented: peak bradycardia was seen after the loss of 23 % BV. Mean arterial blood pressure (MBP) began to fall as soon as haemorrhage commenced and was significant after the loss of 10 % BV. Morphine (Group III) prevented the haemorrhage-induced bradycardia and delayed the significant fall in MBP until the loss of 30 % BV. It is concluded that the response to thoracic blast injury augments the depressor response to haemorrhage while morphine attenuates this response. Experimental Physiology (2002) 87.6, 683-689.

(Received May 31 2002)
(Accepted September 4 2002)