Cold pressor test using strain-gauge plethysmography

Giacomo Feliciani, Cristiano Peron, Augusto La Rocca, Maria Francesca Scuppa, Andrea Malavolta, David Bianchini, Ivan Corazza, Romano Zannoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This laboratory activity is designed to teach students how to measure forearm muscle blood flow (FBF) to describe the mechanisms of peripheral blood flow thermal regulation in healthy subjects. The cold pressor test (CPT) is the clinical procedure used in the experiment to induce arterial vasoconstriction. Strain-gauge plethysmography is applied on the patient's forearm to noninvasive monitor vasoconstriction effects on local blood perfusion and physiological parameters such as blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR). Patients with an altered peripheral vascular resistance (e.g., in hypertension) have different responses to the CPT from healthy subjects. To date, experimental evidence remains unexplained, as we do not know if the BP and HR increase is caused by a decrease in flow rate or an increase in peripheral vascular resistance during the test. To clarify this situation, we have to quantify the parameter we assume is being conditioned by the regulatory physiological intervention, i.e., peripheral vascular resistance. Peripheral vascular resistance quantification can be calculated as the ratio between muscle flow and mean arterial pressure. Students will learn how to apply the instrumental procedure to collect and analyze data before, during, and after the CPT and to describe the physiological responses of the peripheral vascular system to external stressors. They will also learn how to distinguish healthy from pathological responses on the basis of how sympathetic nervous system reactions influence the biomechanics of peripheral vessels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-417
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Advances in Physiology Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Cold pressor test
  • Hypertension
  • Strain-gauge plethysmography
  • Vasoconstriction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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