Journal of Applied Physiology

Mechanism of ethanol-induced vasodilation

S. C. Malpas, B. J. Robinson, T. J. Maling


The mechanism by which ethanol ingestion causes dermal vasodilation is unclear, but it may result from a direct action on central vascular control mechanisms. Forearm blood flow and peripheral skin temperatures were examined in five quadriplegics (lesions above T7) and five control subjects, before and after the ingestion of ethanol (0.75 ml/kg body wt). The lack of vasomotor efferent function was confirmed in the quadriplegics by the absence of vasodilation in response to radiant heating of the torso. There were no significant changes in peripheral temperatures or forearm blood flow after ethanol in the quadriplegics. The control subjects had a significant increase in forearm blood flow (1.12 +/- 0.2 ml.min-1.100 ml-1) and skin temperature (finger 2.4 +/- 0.4 degrees C, toe 3.4 +/- 0.3 degrees C) after ethanol. These data suggest that ethanol may induce peripheral vasodilation by modulation of central vasomotor control mechanisms.