Temperature and blood flow distribution in the human leg during passive heat stress

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2016 May 1;120(9):1047-58. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00965.2015. Epub 2016 Jan 28.


The influence of temperature on the hemodynamic adjustments to direct passive heat stress within the leg's major arterial and venous vessels and compartments remains unclear. Fifteen healthy young males were tested during exposure to either passive whole body heat stress to levels approaching thermal tolerance [core temperature (Tc) + 2°C; study 1; n = 8] or single leg heat stress (Tc + 0°C; study 2; n = 7). Whole body heat stress increased perfusion and decreased oscillatory shear index in relation to the rise in leg temperature (Tleg) in all three major arteries supplying the leg, plateauing in the common and superficial femoral arteries before reaching severe heat stress levels. Isolated leg heat stress increased arterial blood flows and shear patterns to a level similar to that obtained during moderate core hyperthermia (Tc + 1°C). Despite modest increases in great saphenous venous (GSV) blood flow (0.2 l/min), the deep venous system accounted for the majority of returning flow (common femoral vein 0.7 l/min) during intense to severe levels of heat stress. Rapid cooling of a single leg during severe whole body heat stress resulted in an equivalent blood flow reduction in the major artery supplying the thigh deep tissues only, suggesting central temperature-sensitive mechanisms contribute to skin blood flow alone. These findings further our knowledge of leg hemodynamic responses during direct heat stress and provide evidence of potentially beneficial vascular alterations during isolated limb heat stress that are equivalent to those experienced during exposure to moderate levels of whole body hyperthermia.

Keywords: heat stress; hemodynamics; leg blood flow.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Flow Velocity / physiology
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology
  • Femoral Artery / physiopathology
  • Femoral Vein / physiopathology
  • Heat Stress Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Hemodynamics / physiology
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Hyperthermia, Induced / methods
  • Leg / blood supply*
  • Leg / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology*
  • Thigh / blood supply
  • Thigh / physiology
  • Young Adult