From Belfast to Mayo and beyond: The use and future of plethysmography to study blood flow in human limbs

Michael J. Joyner, Niki M. Dietz, John T. Shepherd

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Venous occlusion plethysmography is a simple but elegant technique that has contributed to almost every major area of vascular biology in humans. The general principles of plethysmography were appreciated by the late 1800s, and the application of these principles to measure limb blood flow occurred in the early 1900s. Plethysmography has been instrumental in studying the role of the autonomic nervous system in regulating limb blood flow in humans and important in studying the vasodilator responses to exercise, reactive hyperemia, body heating, and mental stress. It has also been the technique of choice to study how human blood vessels respond to a variety of exogenously administered vasodilators and vasoconstrictors, especially those that act on various autonomic and adrenergic receptors. In recent years, plethysmography has been exploited to study the role of the vascular endothelium in health and disease. Venous occlusion plethysmography is likely to continue to play an important role as investigators seek to understand the physiological significance of newly identified vasoactive factors and how genetic polymorphisms affect the cardiovascular system in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2431-2441
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001


  • Muscle blood flow
  • Nitric oxide
  • Skin blood flow
  • Sympathetic nerves
  • Vasodilation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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