Measurement of limb venous compliance in humans: Technical considerations and physiological findings

John R. Halliwill, Christopher T. Minson, Michael J. Joyner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


We conducted a series of studies to develop and test a rapid, noninvasive method to measure limb venous compliance in humans. First, we measured forearm volume (mercury-in-Silastic strain gauges) and antecubital intravenous pressure during inflation of a venous collecting cuff around the upper arm. Intravenous pressure fit the regression line, -0.3 ± 0.7 + 0.95 ± 0.02 · cuff pressure (r = 0.99 ± 0.00), indicating cuff pressure is a good index of intravenous pressure. In subsequent studies, we measured forearm and calf venous compliance by inflating the venous collecting cuff to 60 mmHg for 4 min, then decreasing cuff pressure at 1 mmHg/s (over 1 min) to 0 mmHg, using cuff pressure as an estimate of venous pressure. This method produced pressure-volume curves fitting the quadratic regression (Δlimb volume) = β0 + β1 · (cuff pressure) + β2 · (cuff pressure)2, where Δ is change. Curves generated with this method were reproducible from day to day (coefficient of variation: 4.9%). In 11 subjects we measured venous compliance via this method under two conditions: with and without (in random order) superimposed sympathetic activation (ischemic handgrip exercise to fatigue followed by postexercise ischemia). Calf and forearm compliance did not differ between control and sympathetic activation (P > 0.05); however, the data suggest that unstressed volume was reduced by the maneuver. These studies demonstrate that venous pressure-volume curves can be generated both rapidly and noninvasively with this technique. Furthermore, the results suggest that although whole-limb venous compliance is under negligible sympathetic control in humans, unstressed volume can be affected by the sympathetic nervous system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1555-1563
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1999


  • Hemodynamics
  • Orthostasis
  • Sympathetic nervous system
  • Unstressed volume

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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