1. We tested the hypotheses that the increase in mean arterial pressure with the application of external leg compression in man is (i) blocked with epidural anaesthesia, and (ii) dependent upon the level of external pressure applied, the quantity of leg muscle mass compressed and the vascular volume of the leg. Fourteen healthy subjects were fitted with an anti‐shock trouser garment to provide three levels (30, 60 and 90 mmHg) of leg compression, while cephalad translocation of fluid was prevented by upper‐thigh cuffs inflated to a supra‐systolic pressure. Cardiovascular responses were recorded during leg compression before and after the administration of epidural anaesthesia in eight subjects, while blood pressure responses from six subjects were compared with their single leg pressor response. 2. Both mean arterial and diastolic pressures were elevated with increasing leg compression, with no changes in heart rate, cardiac output, thoracic impedance, and central venous pressure. The leg compression‐induced blood pressure increases were abolished by epidural anaesthesia. Furthermore, when only one leg was compressed at 90 mmHg, the pressor response was less than that elicited from compression of both legs at the same external pressure. Changes in vascular volume of the leg did not influence the pressor response to leg compression. 3. The results indicate that the mean arterial pressure increases in response to external compression of the legs and that a reflex mechanism, mediated by muscle afferent nerves, is involved. The response is dependent upon both the changes in intramuscular pressure and the quantity of muscle mass compressed.
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