On physiological edema in man's lower extremity

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Summary

To examine whether the so-called musculovenous pump counteracts the development of interstitial edema in the lower extremities of man in the upright position, the volume changes in the calf which occured during twenty minutes of rhythmic muscular exercise were measured in twenty-three subjects by impedance-plethysmography. The results were compared with the volume increase found during quiet relaxed standing for the same length of time. Contrary to the hypothesis, and edema-protective effect of the musculovenous pump could only be shown in about half the number of the subjects. In the others, muscular exercise led to increases in calf volume which were higher than those measured in the normal upright position. These results show that the calf muscle pump does not generally have a edemaprotective effect but rather that muscle contractions also activate mechanisms which stimulate the extravasation of fluid. p ]In a second test-series with twenty subjects, changes in calf volume were measured during the course of the day. In nearly all cases, the calf volume was greater in the evening than in the morning. It could be shown that the volume increases in the evening are caused by an increase in extravascular fluid. Compared to the increase in extravascular volume occuring during twenty minutes, in a normal upright position, the accumulation of extravascular fluid during the day is, however, remarkably low. Although it is still unknown how insterstitial edema in man's lower extremities is prevented during the day, these findings lead to the hypothesis that the edema-preventing mechanisms, for instance the muscle-lymphpump, do not become maximally effective until a certain volume has accumulated in the interstitial space.