Research Article

Peripheral blood flow in menopausal women who have hot flushes and in those who do not.

BMJ 1989; 298 doi: (Published 03 June 1989) Cite this as: BMJ 1989;298:1488
  1. J. Ginsburg,
  2. P. Hardiman,
  3. B. O'Reilly
  1. Department of Endocrinology, Royal Free Hospital Medical School, London.


    OBJECTIVE--To compare blood pressure, heart rate, and peripheral vascular responsiveness in menopausal women who have hot flushes and in those who do not, and to assess the effect on these variables of treating women who have hot flushes with oestriol, a natural oestrogen, given vaginally. DESIGN--An open, non-randomised cohort study of flushing and non-flushing menopausal women. A before and after investigation of the effects of vaginal oestriol treatment on the circulation. SETTING--Referral based endocrinology clinic. PATIENTS--88 Consecutive menopausal women, 63 complaining of frequent hot flushes and 25 who had not flushed for at least a year. INTERVENTION--Treatment with vaginal oestriol 0.5 mg at night for six weeks in 18 of the women who had hot flushes. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS--Peripheral blood flow was measured by venous occlusion plethysmography at rest and in response to stressful mental arithmetic and anoxic forearm exercises. Blood flow in the forearm and its variability were significantly higher in flushing than in non-flushing women (4.1 (SD 1.7) and 3.1 (0.9) ml/100 ml tissue/min and 17% and 13% respectively). Blood pressure, heart rate, and blood flow in the hand were, however, similar in the two groups. No difference was found in the peripheral incremental response to either stress or anoxic exercise. Vaginal oestriol significantly lowered forearm blood flow from 4.4 (1.5) to 3.3 (1.1) ml/100 ml tissue/min but dilator responsiveness was unaffected. CONCLUSIONS--The peripheral circulation is different in menopausal women who have hot flushes compared with those who do not, with selective vasodilatation in the forearm. The lowered blood flow in the forearm after vaginal oestriol in flushing women may be relevant to the alleviation of vasomotor symptoms induced by oestrogen treatment.