Cuff inflation time significantly affects blood flow recorded with venous occlusion plethysmography: rapid cuff inflation improves estimations of hyperemic flow

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PURPOSE: We tested whether the values of limb blood flow calculated with strain-gauge venous occlusion plethysmography (VOP) differ when venous occlusion is achieved by automated, or manual inflation, so providing rapid and slower inflation, respectively.

METHOD: In 9 subjects (20-30 years), we calculated forearm blood flows (FBF) values at rest and following isometric handgrip at 70% maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) when rapid, or slower inflation was used.

RESULT: Rapid and slower cuff inflation took 0.23 ± 0.01 (mean ± SEM) and 0.92 ± 0.02 s, respectively, reflecting the range reported in published studies. At rest, FBF calculated from the 1st cardiac cycle after rapid and slower inflation gave similar values: 10.5 ± 1.4 vs. 9.6 ± 1.3 ml dl - 1 min - 1, respectively (P > 0.05). However, immediately post-contraction, FBF was ~ 40% lower with slower inflation: 54.6 ± 5.1 vs. 33.8 ± 4.2 ml dl - 1 min - 1 (P < 0.01). The latter value was similar to that calculated over the 3rd cardiac cycle following rapid inflation: 2nd cardiac cycle: 40.5 ± 4.5; 3rd cycle: 32.6 ± 4.5 ml dl - 1 min - 1. Regression analyses of FBFs recorded at intervals post-contraction showed those calculated over the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd cardiac cycles with rapid inflation correlated well with those from the 1st cardiac cycle with manual inflation (r = 0.79, 0.82, 0.79; P < 0.01). However, only the slope for the 3rd cycle with rapid inflation vs. slower inflation was close to unity (2.07, 1.34, and 0.94, respectively).

CONCLUSION: These findings confirm that the 1st cardiac cycle following venous occlusion should be used when calculating FBF using VOP and, but importantly, indicate that cuff inflation should be almost instantaneous; just ≥ 0.9 s leads to substantial underestimation, especially at high flows.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)665–674
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue number3
Early online date8 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Blood flow, Cuff inflation, Hyperaemia, Venous occlusion plethysmography