Reduced post‐exercise muscle microvascular perfusion with compression is offset by increased muscle oxygen extraction: Assessment by contrast‐enhanced ultrasound


The microvasculature is important for both health and exercise tolerance in a range of populations. However, methodological limitations have meant changes in micro- vascular blood flow are rarely assessed in humans during interventions designed to affect skeletal muscle blood flow such as the wearing of compression garments. The aim of this study is, for the first time, to use contrast- enhanced ultrasound to directly measure the effects of compression on muscle microvascular blood flow alongside measures of femoral artery blood flow and muscle oxygenation following intense exercise in healthy adults. It was hypothesized that both muscle microvascular and femoral artery blood flows would be augmented with compression garments as com- pared with a control condition. Ten recreationally active participants completed two repeated- sprint exercise sessions, with and without lower- limb compression tights. Muscle microvascular blood flow, femoral arterial blood flow (2D and Doppler ul- trasound), muscle oxygenation (near- infrared spectroscopy), cycling performance, and venous blood samples were measured/taken throughout exercise and the 1- hour post- exercise recovery period. Compared with control, compression reduced mus- cle microvascular blood volume and attenuated the exercise- induced increase in mi- crovascular velocity and flow immediately after exercise and 1 hour post- exercise. Compression increased femoral artery diameter and augmented the exercise- induced increase in femoral arterial blood flow during exercise. Markers of blood oxygen extraction in muscle were increased with compression during and after exercise. Compression had no effect on blood lactate, glucose, or exercise performance. We provide new evidence that lower- limb compression attenuates the exercise- induced increase in skeletal muscle microvascular blood flow following exercise, despite a divergent increase in femoral artery blood flow. Decreased muscle microvascular perfusion is offset by increased muscle oxygen extraction, a potential mechanism al- lowing for the maintenance of exercise performance.

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