The effects of 14-day physical exercise or iloprost treatment (0.5-2 ng/Kg/min) on endogenous nitric oxide production and neutrophil adhesion were evaluated in 20 patients with peripheral arterial occlusive disease (Fontaine Stage II). Peripheral venous blood samples and 4-h urine samples were collected before, immediately after 14 days of therapy and 7-10 days after therapy in order to evaluate neutrophil adhesion, nitrite/nitrate and cGMP excretion rates. A longer pain free walking distance was observed after exercise, compared to iloprost (>500 m in 3/10 subjects). Urinary nitrite/nitrate, as well as cGMP concentrations, significantly increased after exercise. Nitrite/nitrate excretion rate inversely correlated to neutrophil adhesion. No variations were observed in these parameters in iloprost treated patients. The improvement in claudication and the transient increase in urinary nitrite/nitrate suggest a possible nitric oxide-dependent mechanism for the clinical efficacy of physical exercise. The results from the present and previous observations indicate that, besides pharmacological treatments, a regular aerobic exercise improves peripheral arterial occlusive disease.
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