1. Twelve healthy subjects received high-voltage pulsed galvanic stimulation (115–475V d.c.) delivered in separate treatments of 2, 32 and 128 pulses/s for 10 min at the subject's maximum tolerable voltage while calf muscle blood flow was measured by non-invasive Whitney strain-gauge venous occlusion plethysmography.
2. The high-voltage pulsed galvanic stimulation was administered with negative polarity by an intermittent mode of 30 s on, 30 s off. Measurements of calf muscle blood flow were made during each 30 s period when the stimulus was off. The effect of one 30 s maximum isometric contraction of the calf muscles on blood flow was used as a standard for evaluating the effectiveness of high-voltage pulsed galvanic stimulation on calf muscle blood flow.
3. Significant (paired t-tests; P < 0.05) increases in calf muscle blood flow over the preceding baseline levels occurred for the isometric contraction (322%) and for frequencies of 2 pulses/s (33.5%) and 128 pulses/s (13.36%), but not for a frequency of 32 pulses at which calf muscle blood flow increased in only six of 12 subjects. The mean increases in calf muscle blood flow at 2 and 128 pulses/s represented 11.63% and 4.0%, respectively, of that resulting from the isometric contraction.
4. A clear positive correlation between voltage level and the magnitude of increase in calf muscle blood flow was demonstrated but differed for each frequency used.
5. It is concluded that high-voltage pulsed galvanic stimulation results in a measurable increase in calf muscle blood flow when it is applied at frequencies of 2 or 128 pulses/s on intermittent mode and at maximum tolerable voltages, but the magnitude of the increase in blood flow is small compared with that stimulated by a maximal isometric contraction.