Understanding basic vein physiology and venous blood pressure through simple physical assessments

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    An understanding of the complexity of the cardiovascular system in general, and the circulatory system in particular, is incomplete without a knowledge of the venous system. For obvious reasons, the teaching concerning blood pressure control and regulation focusses on the arterial side of the circulation. However, often it is not easily perceived by students that in a closed system, like the circulatory system, changes to the venous side of the circulation have a knock-on effect on heart function and the arterial system and visa–versa. Veins are capacitance vessels feeding blood to the right side of the heart. Changes in venous compliance have large effects on the volume of blood entering the heart and hence cardiac output by the Frank-Starling Law. In healthy steady-state conditions, venous return has to equal cardiac output i.e. the heart cannot pump more blood than is delivered to it. Understanding the venous side of the circulation is essential to understanding the physiological significance of changes in cardiac output that occur with changes in right atrial pressure (RAP) or central venous pressure (CVP) and hence truly appreciating the consequences of such changes to arterial blood pressure regulation. In this paper, we detail simple physiological assessments that illustrate some key functions of veins. We investigate venous valves and the skeletal muscle pump as facilitators of venous return and we look at the significance of CVP and its assessment. The emphasis of this paper is on the fundamental physiology of veins as evidenced through basic physical assessments.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalAdvances in Physiology Education
    Journal publication date27 Dec 2018
    Publication statusAccepted - 27 Dec 2018

      Research areas

    • Physiology, Education

    ID: 163261291