OI Resource - A Resource about Orthostatic Intolerance

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

On this page:

G-suit

Orthostatic Intolerance (OI)

Wearing a G-suit

Alternatives to Wearing a G-suit

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

G-SUIT:

How does a g-suit work?

A g-suit puts pressure on the abdomen and legs to return blood to the heart and brain. Pressure of 40-50 mm Hg can relieve symptoms of Orthostatic Intolerance (OI). Pressure of 250 mm Hg or more helps prevent blackouts for fighter pilots experiencing positive G's. A g-suit can be inflated manually and the pressure is easily adjustable.

The air bladder inflates in the front of the body and puts pressure on the abdomen (abdominal aorta) and legs. It then pulls the material tight around the sides and back of the legs. This pressure around the muscles helps prevent blood from pooling in the feet and legs. It also helps to push blood back up to the heart and brain.

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Why would a person wear a g-suit?

Research has been done that shows successful use of a g-suit for Orthostatic Intolerance (OI). I decided to try it to see if it would work for me, also. It has definitely improved the quality of My Life, and I keep improving.

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How did you find out about using a g-suit for Orthostatic Intolerance (OI)?

How I found out about using a g-suit for Orthostatic Intolerance (OI) is explained on the page My Life and OI.

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Is wearing a g-suit for Orthostatic Intolerance (OI) common knowledge?

While there has been a lot of research that shows the successful use of a g-suit for Orthostatic Intolerance (OI), not many people (doctors and patients) know about it. I hope this website will provide the information needed to lead to greater use of g-suits. I would like to give other people the opportunity to have the improved quality of life that I have experienced. I would not have wanted to miss out on all of the fun things I have gotten to do these last few years.

"The effective use of an air force anti-G suit in patients with postural hypotension has previously been described. A comparison between an air-filled suit (an experimental anti-G suit) and an elastic form of garment providing counterpressure showed that the air-filled suit was more effective in treating postural hypotension. As Burton has pointed out, the anti-G suit is not routinely used clinically to raise blood pressure, and it requires someone to suggest the role. The purpose of this paper is to draw attention to this clinical use of the anti-G suit." (1)

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What was the original purpose of the g-suit?

Although the g-suit is now used in the military for fighter pilots and by NASA astronauts, it was originally invented for medical use. It was first used during surgery in 1903 by the inventor Dr. George Crile. The Origin of the Anti-G Suit - A Link Between Clinical Surgery and Aviation Medicine by Dr. Wilfrid H. Brook has more information on the history of the g-suit.

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ORTHOSTATIC INTOLERANCE (OI):

What illnesses have Orthostatic Intolerance (OI) as a symptom? What are some other causes of Orthostatic Intolerance (OI)? What are the symptoms of Orthostatic Intolerance (OI)?

Orthostatic Intolerance (OI) Info has all of these answers and more.

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Is there a test for Orthostatic Intolerance (OI)?

Yes, there is a simple blood pressure and pulse test for Orthostatic Intolerance that can be performed by a doctor to determine if someone has Orthostatic Intolerance (OI).

For me, the clue was that I felt "almost well" when I was lying down.

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Is there more research that needs to be done to better understand Orthostatic Intolerance (OI)?

A lot of research has been done on Orthostatic Intolerance (OI). I am sure there is a lot more than I have been able to include on this website. Based on my experience and understanding of Orthostatic Intolerance (OI), I have several Research Ideas.

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Can doctors and patients do more with this information about Orthostatic Intolerance (OI)?

There is a lot that other people, including doctors and patients, can do with this information about Orthostatic Intolerance (OI). They can give or take the OI test, find the right treatment, and tell others about Orthostatic Intolerance (OI).

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WEARING A G-SUIT:

How often is the g-suit worn?

I wear my g-suit all the time, anytime I am sitting or standing up, even to go out. The only time I do not wear it is when sleeping or bathing.

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Why is the g-suit worn only when sitting or standing up and not when lying down?

It has been found in research that with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) / Orthostatic Intolerance (OI) blood pressure and circulation seem to be fairly normal while lying down. (That is probably why I feel the closest to "well" when I am lying down.) So I just need the g-suit when I am sitting or standing.

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What does the pressure of the g-suit feel like?

Fighter pilots need a lot of pressure, more than 5 psi, which equals 258 mm Hg. To check blood pressure, the cuff is usually pumped up to 200 mm Hg before releasing the pressure. A good blood pressure reading is below 120/80 mm Hg. By comparison, research on g-suits and MAST (Military / Medical Anti-Shock Trousers) has shown that the pressure required to relieve Orthostatic Intolerance symptoms is 40-50 mm Hg. When manually inflated, the pressure of the g-suit for Orthostatic Intolerance (OI) feels comfortable, gentle, and even. (It should not hurt.) Many support stockings are available in much lower pressure like 10-20 mm Hg.

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How much does a g-suit weigh?

A g-suit weighs about 3 pounds (lbs.) or approximately 1.4 kg.

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How is the fit of a g-suit adjusted?

There are several ways to adjust the fit of a g-suit. See Fitting the G-suit for more information.

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In what sizes are g-suits made?

That information is included on the page G-suit Size Charts.

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Where can you buy a g-suit?

There are several places that sell g-suits. See Where to Buy a G-suit for more information.

**A new g-suit design, called Adjusted Compression G-Pants, is being developed and custom-fit prototypes can be ordered.**

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How is a g-suit washed?

The label on the g-suit states: Do not iron or dry clean. Plug air inlet port securely. Wash with mild soap and with water not over 120 degrees F. The material of the outer shell of this anti-g garment is an inherent fire resistant material that will not melt or drip and can be laundered without losing its fire resistant properties. No retreatment is necessary.

An easy way to get a thorough cleaning of the g-suit at home is: Cover the hose valve with a plastic sandwich bag and rubber band to keep it dry. Holding the valve in your hand, place the g-suit in the washing machine with cold water and Woolite. Continue to hold valve in hand and agitate on delicate for 5 minutes. Transfer the g-suit to a laundry tub. Rinse while holding valve in your hand. Hang the g-suit to drip dry with the valve up and away from any dripping. The g-suit should be dry in 24 hours.

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How long will the g-suit be worn for Orthostatic Intolerance (OI)?

The length of time is individual. Some people wear it for a few months and their bodies are able to maintain the improvement; I have worn mine for years (since August 2001) and I have continued to improve.

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Are the results of wearing the g-suit lasting? Or are there results only while wearing the inflated suit?

Many devices such as eyeglasses, false teeth, and hearing aids only work while they are being worn.

I wear the g-suit whenever I am not in bed. It has seemed to help me "catch up" so that taking a bath (without the g-suit on) has been easier than it used to be.

There are some people who have benefited by wearing the g-suit for just a few months.

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How long did you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) / Orthostatic Intolerance (OI) before starting to wear a g-suit? What were your results of wearing a g-suit?

I have worn a g-suit since August 2001 with extremely good results. I am no longer bedbound. I am now up to homebound, and I am continuing to improve. Before this, I had been mostly bedbound with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) for 7 years. My mom has been homebound (sometimes bedbound) with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since 1988 and has worn a g-suit with good results also. She has been able to see what problems are OI and what problems are not OI and seek further medical treatment for the other problems. We are amazed by what blood circulating to our heart and brain can do, like being able to stand up and think at the same time! The improvement in the quality of our lives has been tremendous. See My Life and OI and Before and After the G-suit for more information.

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What were some of your experiences with wearing a g-suit?

The pages called Wearing the G-suit and Before and After the G-suit provide more information on my experiences with wearing a g-suit.

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Would a g-suit work for a mild case of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) / Orthostatic Intolerance (OI)?

I do know that some treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) have worked better for people who have a milder case (more hours of activity in their day). Depending on how much they are affected by Orthostatic Intolerance (OI), possibly a g-suit would give them the boost they need.

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Does a g-suit work for everyone who has Orthostatic Intolerance (OI)?

The research seems promising; I have not found any information that says a g-suit does not work for Orthostatic Intolerance (OI).

Each person's results with a g-suit will vary because of differences in illness, symptoms, level of disability, expectations, and fit. It is possible that people who are bedbound could at least sit up better with a g-suit.

Including a g-suit, there are many ways to treat Orthostatic Intolerance (OI). It may take some trial and error to find what is right for you. Discuss all options with your doctor and only make changes and try things under your doctor's supervision.

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What does a g-suit look like?

A standard g-suit is like a pair of chaps, with an air bladder that inflates over 5 areas of the body - at the abdomen, the front of each thigh, and the side of each calf - and cut-outs that allow for mobility at the knees and groin. See G-suit Pictures and G-suit Basics for more information.

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Is the abdominal bladder on the g-suit necessary?

Yes, research by Dr. Phillip A. Low et al. on g-suits has shown that the abdominal bladder is the most important single area of pressure for relieving Orthostatic Intolerance symptoms. The combination of pressure on the legs and abdomen with a g-suit had an even greater positive effect.

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Are there other types of g-suits?

Yes, there are other models. My experience for Orthostatic Intolerance (OI) is with the current CSU-13B/P model. (Model CSU-15/P is also a current model; it has shiny material.) There are older models that were made a long time ago and probably have condition problems relating to the air bladders and keeping enough pressure. There are also new models being developed for the military that are expensive and sound nice.

**A new g-suit design, called Adjusted Compression G-Pants, is being developed and custom-fit prototypes can be ordered.**

There is also a completely different type of design called a capstan suit that is being further developed for military use in high altitude and anti-g protection and for medical use in orthostatic intolerance by Thomas R. Sharp.

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ALTERNATIVES TO WEARING A G-SUIT:

Is there a downside to wearing a g-suit daily?

I have not had too many problems with wearing a g-suit, although I have lots of Design Ideas to make wearing a g-suit every day a better experience. There is especially a need for sizing for all body types including children. Color, zipper location, being washable and affordable are also important considerations. Some other ideas include: greater availability, better looking, material that is not so hot, a better way to inflate, something that does not leak or can be fixed, and an easy way to adjust the fit. (If g-suits would fit better, there would not be a need for as much inflation.)

**A new g-suit design, called Adjusted Compression G-Pants, is being developed and custom-fit prototypes can be ordered.**

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In light of the drawbacks to wearing a g-suit for Orthostatic Intolerance (OI), are there better alternatives?

Despite the drawbacks with wearing a g-suit, I believe that wearing a g-suit for Orthostatic Intolerance (OI) is the best choice for me (and one of the best things that has happened in my life). I realize that the decision is individual and all options, some of them I have included below, should be discussed with a doctor when the Orthostatic Intolerance test is given. A g-suit is currently an option that very few people know about as being useful for Orthostatic Intolerance (OI), and may be a better alternative for other people as well.

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Would support or compression stockings / TED hose (Thrombo-Embolism Device) work just as well as a g-suit?

Yes, but research on g-suits and MAST (Military / Medical Anti-Shock Trousers) has shown that the pressure required to relieve Orthostatic Intolerance symptoms is 40-50 mm Hg. Many support stockings, which are available at local drug stores, do not provide enough pressure, often only 10-20 mm Hg. There is a specialized support stocking made by Sigvaris that provides pressure of 40-50 mm Hg. For my mom, they were difficult to put on (exhausting!) and tended to bunch behind the knees and at the ankles, which caused bruising. (Pressure from the air-inflated g-suit should not hurt.)

I have since found an online article (Link will open in new window.) by the Northern Virginia CFS/FMS Support Group that suggests that a different approach to wearing support stockings can lead to a more successful experience with them. (http://www.cfsnova.com/notes-SpprtHose.html)

Research by Dr. Phillip A. Low et al. on g-suits has also shown that the abdominal bladder is the most important single area of pressure for relieving Orthostatic Intolerance symptoms. The combination of pressure on the legs and abdomen with a g-suit had an even greater positive effect. The use of stockings alone does not address this issue. An abdominal binder would need to be added, but it can bunch, too, and there is difficulty with uneven pressure with it, also. A big advantage to the g-suit is that the air pressure is easily adjustable.

Research by Dr. Wilfrid H. Brook made reference to work in 1954 "A comparison between an air-filled suit (an experimental anti-G suit) and an elastic form of garment providing counterpressure showed that the air-filled suit was more effective in treating postural hypotension." I do not know if this is still true because of new fabric technology.

Two research papers noticed results with just a tight-fitted but uninflated g-suit. In research by Dr. Wilfrid H. Brook, "An unexplained finding on one occasion were identical blood pressure measurements both with the suit uninflated and inflated." In research by Dr. Victor A. Convertino et al., "The success of the G-suit alone without pressure application may reflect the simple effectiveness of wearing tight-fitting garments in patients with conditions similar to those of our patient."

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Would MAST (Military / Medical Anti-Shock Trousers) trousers work just as well as a g-suit?

Research has been done using MAST (Military / Medical Anti-Shock Trousers) trousers that shows the success of pressure on the lower body for relieving Orthostatic Intolerance symptoms. MAST trousers do not allow a way to bend at the knees and waist like a g-suit does.

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Are the pants that are used in a hospital to prevent blood clots after surgery like a g-suit?

These have been mentioned to me several times, when I talk to people about the g-suit. I do not know what they are called. I do not know what they look like or how they work. I also do not know if a person can walk around in them.

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Could ace/elastic bandages provide the same results as a g-suit?

It would be difficult to get even pressure and could be dangerous with too much pressure that causes decreased blood circulation.

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Is there anything harmful about wearing a g-suit?

When taking the Orthostatic Intolerance test at your doctor's office, be sure to discuss any possible problems with wearing a g-suit (or trying other OI treatments) that are specific to your health. For instance, your doctor may not recommend it, if you have pulmonary edema or congestive heart failure. (2) (These can be reasons not to use MAST trousers.)

Also, discuss the possibility of decreased circulation to your legs and feet. Find out what to look for such as, discoloration of the skin, as well as pain or cramping, and numbness of the lower legs and feet. (3) (These can be problems with support stockings.) When wearing a g-suit, it should not hurt.

Plan a follow-up visit so the doctor can check for problems.

As always, only wear a g-suit under your doctor's supervision.

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Besides a g-suit, what are other ways to treat Orthostatic Intolerance (OI)?

Talk with your doctor to find a treatment that is right for you. It may require a combination of therapies.

These are some of the possibilities:

  • Increase salt intake (up to 10-15 g sodium daily). (4, 5, 6, 7)
     
  • Increase water intake (64 oz. water per day). (4, 5, 6, 7)
     
  • Also increase salt and water intake during exercise, hot weather, and illness (cold or flu). (5)
     
  • Check prescription and over-the-counter medications for side effect of Orthostatic Intolerance (OI). (5)
     
  • Exercise can promote blood flow. (5)
     
  • Go slowly when getting up from sitting or lying down. (5)
     
  • To improve circulation, stretch your feet back and forth before standing up. (5)
     
  • When feeling dizzy, sit down. (5)
     
  • Elevate the head of the bed by 5-20 degrees. (5, 6)
     
  • Wear compression garments (g-suit, MAST, elastic support stockings, girdles, abdominal binders). (4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
     
  • Try a drink that has caffeine (250 mg) in the morning. (5)
     
  • Learn to avoid things that can make Orthostatic Intolerance (OI) worse. (4, 6, 7)
     
  • Avoid standing in long lines. (4, 6)
     
  • Avoid being in warm environments and hot water. (4, 5, 6)
     
  • Avoid heavy lifting. (5)
     
  • Avoid taking low blood pressure drugs before meals. (5)
     
  • Avoid eating large, heavy meals. (4, 5, 6)
     
  • Medications may be prescribed that treat low blood volume, treat blood pooling, or raise blood pressure. (4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
     
  • Intravenous fluids can help reduce symptoms at times when they are severe. (4, 8)
     
  • A new device called Impedance Threshold Device (ITD) is a small hand-held breathing device. I think it may be the Orthostatic Intolerance treatment of the future.

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Does exercise cure Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) / Orthostatic Intolerance (OI)?

That has not been my experience. Before the g-suit, exercise was not even a possibility. Very shortly after wearing the g-suit, I felt good enough to take opportunities to exercise in ways I had enjoyed before I had gotten sick. Because of Orthostatic Intolerance (OI), I felt "almost well" while lying down and getting out of bed led to feeling awful. By treating Orthostatic Intolerance with a g-suit, I can be out of bed more and get some exercise. I usually exercise toward the end of my day, so I have a long time to rest and recover.

Unlike many other illnesses, activity and exercise can actually make the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) worse. The Links page has more information about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), including ME/CFS Guidelines: Management Guidelines for General Practitioners (PDF format - 110 KB) that has other treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) beyond the symptom of Orthostatic Intolerance (OI).

Recently, I have been thinking about taking a different approach to exercise, so that it is not just something that I enjoy but I also benefit from it. This article called “CFS and the Exercise Conundrum” (Link will open in new window.) by Lucinda Bateman M.D. has been a part of my change in thinking. She points out the importance of finding ways to exercise that work around Orthostatic Intolerance (OI) and avoid payback (symptoms and extra time in bed). (http://www.iacfsme.org/CFSandExercise/tabid/103/Default.aspx)
This article is also available to view as PDF/Adobe Acrobat format. (46 KB) (Link will open in new window.) (http://www.iacfsme.org/Portals/0/pdf/CFSandtheExcerciseConundrum.pdf)

I also believe that treating the Orthostatic Intolerance (OI) first is the only way to make exercise possible and beneficial for me.

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OTHER:

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)?

I mention Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) many times on this website. The main focus of this website is Orthostatic Intolerance (OI) which often is one of the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I have included links and more information about CFS and its relationship to OI on the Links and More page.

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Do you wear the g-suit in public?

Yes, I wear the g-suit all day, both at home and when I go out. When I started wearing the g-suit in public, I was very self-conscious about it. It felt like everybody was looking at me and I had no idea what they were thinking. It seemed hard to go from a hidden illness to an obvious illness. When I considered not wearing the g-suit out, it was a very easy decision. It was working and I needed it. I found out that it does not even cross most people's minds that I am using the g-suit for an illness. They are usually thinking it is for something very athletic like rock climbing or skiing. The funniest question that I have been asked is, "Are you with the rodeo?" People that I have talked to are very interested and excited for me.

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What do you say when people ask about the g-suit?

I am usually only asked about the g-suit by very outgoing people. This is what I tell them:

This is a g-suit that fighter pilots wear. I found out after many years of having a chronic illness that one of the problems is that my blood is not circulating properly. The air pressure of the g-suit on my legs and abdomen pushes blood up to my heart and brain and I can be out of bed and feeling better.

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What do people think the g-suit is?

I am very happy when people ask me about the g-suit. People very rarely consider that it may be for an illness. Some know it is a g-suit but do not know why I wear it. Others think it is for weight loss, fashion, hiding a puppy, floating, or a knee brace. They usually think it is for something very athletic and depending on the season, guesses include pants for parachuting, rock climbing, horseback riding, rodeo, motorcycling, bicycling, flying, hunting, or skiing.

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Is it possible to get through airport security while wearing a g-suit?

Yes, my mom and I wore our g-suits but did not set off the metal detector at the airport. Even though the g-suit did not set off the metal detector, we still had to be hand searched. (It does not hurt when they push on the air bladders.) We try to tell the security guards what the g-suits are and why we need to wear them. I have a prescription slip from my doctor that I carry with me to travel. It says, "Must wear g-suit as medical device."

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Do fighter pilots and NASA astronauts wear g-suits?

Yes, a g-suit is an anti-gravity garment worn by fighter pilots who fly high-performance aircraft like an F-16. When they are pulling positive G's, the suit inflates and prevents blood from pooling in their feet and legs which would cause them to lose consciousness. Fighter pilots wear a vest and special helmet, also. NASA astronauts also wear g-suits when they experience Orthostatic Intolerance (OI).

Fighter pilots experience so many G's that a g-suit, vest, and helmet are not enough to keep them safe. They need to also do an anti-G straining maneuver (AGSM). That involves tensing certain muscles in the legs and abdomen and using a special breathing technique.

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What are positive G's?

Positive G's - positive G, +Gz, G-force, G forces, G's, Gs, G = gravity

Gravitational (G) forces are experienced on a roller coaster ride. At the bottom of the hill, several positive Gs (+Gz) push one back in the seat. It feels like several times one's body weight. It is usually not enough positive G forces to cause fainting in a healthy person. At the top of the hill, negative G forces lift one out of the seat and a feeling of weightlessness is experienced.

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Since you have a chronic illness, how did you earn your college degrees?

As I explained in more detail on the Update page, I started "going" to college from bed through a school named Excelsior College (www.Excelsior.edu), which offers a lot of flexibility in degree planning and accepts a wide variety of ways to earn college credit. I mostly used Credit-by-Exam programs like CLEP and DSST, to study at my own pace and take about one proficiency test per month, which has been perfect for me. I was able to complete my associate and bachelor's degrees!

I have now been accepted to a Master's program in Biostatistics, which Texas A&M University offers that is entirely online. I would like to be a biostatistician and be part of clinical research teams that are pursuing causes and treatments of chronic illnesses, in particular Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) / Orthostatic Intolerance (OI).

If you would like to help to support my efforts with graduate school, please check out the Fundraiser page, too. Thank you!

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SEARCH:

Search Some of My Favorite Websites about Orthostatic Intolerance

Search Some of My Favorite Websites about Using Credit-by-Exam to Earn a College Degree

Note: These search results will open in a new window.

Be sure to shop here for Study Guides, too.

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Sources

Note: "(on site)" means this information is available on this website through the link provided.
Links to resources outside of this website will open in a new window.

  1. Wilfrid H. Brook RFD, MB, BS(Melb), MS(Mon), FRCSEd, FICA. "Postural hypotension and the anti-gravity suit". (on site) Australian Family Physician. Vol. 23, No. 10, October 1994, pages 1945-1949.
    Also available to view as PDF/Adobe Acrobat format. (1.5 MB) (on site)
     
  2. Harvey D. Grant and Robert H. Murray, Jr. "Emergency Care second edition". Bowie, MD: Robert J. Brady Co. A Prentice-Hall Company, 1978. Phase 5 - Principles of Emergency Care, Chapter 1 - Basic Life Support Measures, page 236.
     
  3. The Cleveland Clinic Movement Disorders Program, Department of Neurology. "From the Cleveland Clinic: Other Medical Concerns: Lightheadedness (Parkinson's)". Medically reviewed by Gary Vogin, MD, 10/2001: online WebMD - http://www.webmd.com/, 6/1/2003.
     
  4. The CFIDS Association of America - http://www.cfids.org/ "Diagnosis: Orthostatic Intolerance (OI)" (on site): online http://www.cfids.org/about-cfids/orthostatic-intolerance.asp, 7/26/2005.
     
  5. WebMD, "Understanding Low Blood Pressure - Detection & Treatment". Medically reviewed by Michael Aronson, MD, 7/2005: online WebMD http://www.webmd.com/, 1/23/2006.
     
  6. The CFIDS Association of America - http://www.cfids.org/ "Orthostatic Intolerance and CFIDS Fact Sheet" (on site): online http://www.cfids.org/about-cfids/oi-and-cfs.asp, 7/26/2005.
     
  7. The CFIDS Association of America - http://www.cfids.org/ "Curriculum expands awareness - CFS: Primary Care Basics" (on site) Winter 2002: online http://www.cfids.org/archives/2002rr/2002-rr1-article01.asp, 7/26/2005.
     
  8. Victor A. Convertino, Duane A. Ratliff, Jacqueline Crissey, Donald F. Doerr, Ahamed H. Idris, and Keith G. Lurie. "Effects of inspiratory impedance on hemodynamic responses to a squat-stand test in human volunteers: implications for treatment of orthostatic hypotension". This is in PDF/Adobe Acrobat format. (276 KB) (on site) Eur J Appl Physiol. (2005) 94: 392-399.

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