Low-dose fentanyl does not alter muscle sympathetic nerve activity, blood pressure, or tolerance during progressive central hypovolemia

Mu Huang, Joseph C. Watso, Luke N. Belval, Frank A. Cimino, Mads Fischer, Caitlin P. Jarrard, Joseph M. Hendrix, Carmen Hinojosa Laborde, Craig G. Crandall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Hemorrhage is a leading cause of battlefield and civilian trauma deaths. Several pain medications, including fentanyl, are recommended for use in the prehospital (i.e., field setting) for a hemorrhaging solider. However, it is unknown whether fentanyl impairs arterial blood pressure (BP) regulation, which would compromise hemorrhagic tolerance. Thus, the purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that an analgesic dose of fentanyl impairs hemorrhagic tolerance in conscious humans. Twenty-eight volunteers (13 females) participated in this double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. We conducted a presyncopal limited progressive lower body negative pressure test (LBNP; a validated model to simulate hemorrhage) following intravenous administration of fentanyl (75 mg) or placebo (saline). We quantified tolerance as a cumulative stress index (mmHg·min), which was compared between trials using a paired, two-tailed t test. We also compared muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA; microneurography) and beat-to-beat BP (photoplethysmography) during the LBNP test using a mixed effects model [time (LBNP stage) X trial]. LBNP tolerance was not different between trials (fentanyl: 647 ± 386 vs. placebo: 676 ± 295 mmHg·min, P = 0.61, Cohen’s d = 0.08). Increases in MSNA burst frequency (time: P < 0.01, trial: P = 0.29, interaction: P = 0.94) and reductions in mean BP (time: P < 0.01, trial: P = 0.50, interaction: P = 0.16) during LBNP were not different between trials. These data, the first to be obtained in conscious humans, demonstrate that administration of an analgesic dose of fentanyl does not alter MSNA or BP during profound central hypovolemia, nor does it impair tolerance to this simulated hemorrhagic insult.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-63
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Cerebral tissue oxygenation
  • Opioids
  • Respiration
  • Sympathoexcitatory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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