Background: Cigarette smoking predisposes to vascular disease. Our study aimed to assess the acute effects of cigarette smoking on peripheral microcirculation using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) and to compare microcirculatory function of smokers with that of nonsmokers.
Methods: We examined 65 healthy volunteers: 25 smokers (14 men and 11 women; age range, 20 to 27 years) and 40 nonsmokers (31 men and 9 women; age range, 19 to 38 years). Smokers had refrained from smoking for 2 h prior to the examination. Tissue O2 saturation (Sto2), defined as the percentage of hemoglobin saturation in the microvasculature compartments, was measured with a probe placed on the thenar muscle. Sto2 baseline values were recorded for 5 min. Subsequently, the brachial artery occlusion technique was applied to evaluate microcirculatory function before, during, and after smoking one cigarette.
Results: Sto2 before smoking was 85 ± 6% (mean ± SD), not differing significantly between men and women (84.4 ± 6.6% vs 85.6 ± 5.8%, respectively; p = 0.721). Sto2 did not change significantly during smoking. O2 consumption rate was significantly greater in women (33.4 ± 6.7 Sto2 U/min vs 25.7 ± 7.1 Sto2 U/min, p = 0.032) at baseline and throughout the smoking session. O2 consumption rate was reduced during smoking (p < 0.001) and at 5 min after the smoking session. Smoking had a significant effect on vascular reactivity (p = 0.015), with no significant differences between genders. Five minutes after smoking, vascular reactivity had returned to approximately normal levels.
Conclusion: Smoking acutely affects microcirculatory function. NIRS is a noninvasive, operator-independent technique that can document these effects. It seems promising for the prospective evaluation of the effects of long-term exposure to cigarette smoke.