Water-displacement plethysmography: a technique for the simultaneous thermal manipulation and measurement of whole-hand and whole-foot blood flows

Joanne N Caldwell, Nigel A S Taylor

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The purpose of this project was to design, construct and validate water-displacement plethysmographs for the forearm, hand and foot that could clamp segmental skin temperature whilst simultaneously measuring cutaneous blood flow. Two experiments were performed. In the first, the forearm plethysmograph was validated against a mercury-in-silastic plethysmograph under thermoneutral conditions, with and without forearm heating. Cutaneous vascular conductance was elevated almost three-fold by this treatment, however, there were no significant differences between the two forms of plethysmography in either state (P > 0.05). In study two, hand and foot blood flows were measured under clamped thermoneutral conditions, but with three local skin temperature treatments (5, 25, 40 degrees C). The hand had significantly higher blood flows than the foot at both 25 degrees C (4.07 versus 2.20 mL.100 mL( - 1).min( - 1); P <0.05) and 40 degrees C (8.20 versus 4.47 mL.100 mL( - 1).min( - 1); P <0.05). The foot was maximally constricted during the two lower temperatures, yet the cutaneous thermal sensitivity of the hand was almost two-fold greater (P <0.05). This evidence supports the significant role played by these appendages in heat loss and conservation, and these plethysmographs will now be used to map cutaneous vascular responses (forearm, hand, calf, foot) across combinations of core and local skin temperatures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1781-1795
Number of pages15
JournalPhysiological Measurement
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • cutaneous blood flow
  • plethysmograph
  • skin temperature
  • thermoregulation

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