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The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) has a critical role in continuously coordinating responses to stimuli internal and external to the human body by appropriately modulating the activity of the organs it innervates. The SNS is activated in response to various physiological stressors, including exercise, which can involve a significant increase in SNS activity. An increase in SNS activity directed toward the kidneys causes vasoconstriction of afferent arterioles within the kidneys. This sympathetically mediated renal vasoconstriction decreases renal blood flow (RBF), causing significant blood flow redistribution toward active skeletal muscles during exercise. In research studies, different modes, intensities, and durations of exercise have been used to investigate the sympathetically mediated RBF response to exercise, and several methodological approaches have been used to quantify RBF. Doppler ultrasound provides noninvasive, continuous, real-time measurements of RBF and has emerged as a valid and reliable technique to quantify RBF during exercise. This innovative methodology has been applied in studies in which the RBF response to exercise has been examined in healthy young and older adults and patient populations such as those with heart failure and peripheral arterial disease. This valuable tool has enabled researchers to produce clinically relevant findings that have furthered our understanding of the effect of SNS activation on RBF in populations of health and disease. Therefore, the focus of this narrative review is to highlight the use of Doppler ultrasound in research studies that have provided important findings furthering our knowledge of the impact of SNS activation on RBF regulation in humans.


Marcos P Rocha, Sandro H Mentetzides, Rachel C Drew. Renal blood flow during exercise: understanding its measurement with Doppler ultrasound. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985). 2023 Apr 01;134(4):1004-1010

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PMID: 36892892

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