What is the anatomy and function of the "peripheral heart" in the calf?

Updated: Jun 05, 2019
  • Author: Kaushal (Kevin) Patel, MD; Chief Editor: Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP  more...
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Answer

Together, the calf’s muscles and deep vein system form a complex array of valves and pumps, often referred to as the “peripheral heart,” that functions to push blood upward from the feet against gravity. The calf-muscle pump is analogous to the common hand-pump bulb of a sphygmomanometer filling a blood pressure cuff. Before pumping has started, the pressure is neutral and equal everywhere throughout the system and the calf fills with blood, typically 100-150 mL. When the calf contracts, the feeding perforator vein valves are forced closed and the outflow valves are forced open driving the blood proximally. When the calf is allowed to relax, the veins and sinusoids refill from the superficial venous system via perforating veins, and the outflow valve is then forced shut, preventing retrograde flow. With each “contraction,” 40-60% of the calf’s venous volume is driven proximally. [17]


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