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© 2019 Elsevier Ltd There is a relationship between arterial blood pressure, cardiac output and vascular resistance described mathematically, that helps us to understand short-term control of blood pressure in terms of a hydraulic system. Arterial baroreceptors are specialized sensors which mediate a rapid response to sudden changes in pressure through interaction with the autonomic nervous system. This in turn influences heart rate, inotropic state and vascular tone, altering distribution of blood between arterial and venous systems, thus compensating for acute changes in total blood volume. Total blood volume is controlled predominantly by the kidney, with the renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system acting as both the ‘sensor’ of blood pressure/volume (via renin release in the juxtaglomerular apparatus) and the ‘effector’ of blood pressure/volume (via aldosterone secretion by the adrenal cortex). Overall control is shared; the baroreceptors being responsible for mediating short-term changes, and renal mechanisms determining the long-term control of blood pressure. These systems have to be adaptable in order to deal with physiological variation in the delivery of blood to tissues from rest to exercise, and with the large shifts in blood volume seen in acute haemorrhage. Pathophysiological changes in these systems lead to maladaptive responses, with systemic hypertension the most commonly seen.

Original publication




Journal article


Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine

Publication Date





301 - 305