Background: Crude oil contains a variety of chemicals, and some of these chemicals are proven to be toxic to human health. The adverse health effects of crude oil exposure have been drawing much attention in recent years particularly after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. Epidemiologic studies also have reported that acute exposure to crude oil can cause irritation of the respiratory system, pneumonia, headache, drowsiness, fatigue, and nausea; however, the acute impact on the cardiovascular system after exposure to crude oil vapor has not been well studied. The present study investigated the effects of inhaled crude oil vapor on blood pressure and cardiac function. Methods: Male Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed by inhalation to Deepwater Horizon surrogate crude oil vapor for 6 h at a concentration of 300 ppm. In vivo systolic, diastolic and mean blood pressure and cardiac performance in the absence or presence of norepinephrine and dobutamine were measured by a computerized pressure-volume loop system at 1 day and 28 days post-exposure in anesthetized rats. Results: Inhalation of crude oil vapor significantly decreased the basal level of diastolic and mean blood pressure at 1 day post-exposure. Additionally, crude oil vapor exposure also resulted in a lowered end-diastolic and end-systolic volume of the left ventricle, and a reduced responsiveness of end-diastolic volume of the left ventricle to dobutamine. Our study indicated that there was no effect on blood pressure and cardiac function at 28 days post-exposure. Conclusions: Inhalation exposure to crude oil vapor at a concentration of 300 ppm for 6 h significantly lowered basal blood pressure that was associated with lowering of end-diastolic and end-systolic volumes of the left ventricle and decreased responsiveness to a positive inotropic drug.
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