Effect of position and weight force on inferior vena cava diameter - Implications for arrest-related death

Jeffrey D. Ho, Donald M. Dawes, Johanna C. Moore, Liberty V. Caroon, James R. Miner

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34 Scopus citations


Introduction: The physiology of many sudden, unexpected arrest-related deaths (ARDs) proximate to restraint has not been elucidated. A sudden decrease in central venous return during restraint procedures could be physiologically detrimental. The impact of body position and applied weight force on central venous return has not been previously studied. In this study, we use ultrasound to measure the size of the inferior vena cava (IVC) as a surrogate of central venous return in the standing position, prone position, and with weight force applied to the thorax in the prone position. Methods: This was a prospective, observational study of volunteer human subjects. The IVC was visualized from the abdomen in both the longitudinal and transverse section in the standing and prone positions without weight force applied, and with 100. lbs (45. kg) and 147. lbs (67. kg) of weight force on the upper back in the prone position. Maximum and minimum measurements were determined in each section to account for possible respiratory variation of the IVC. Results: The IVC significantly decreased in size with each successive change: from standing to prone, from prone to prone with 100. lbs (45. kg) weight compression, from prone with 100. lbs (45. kg) weight compression to prone with 147. lbs (67. kg) weight compression (p< 0.0001). The vital sign measurements had no statistical change. Conclusions: The physiology involved in many sudden, unexpected ARDs has not been elucidated. However, in our study, we found a significant decrease in IVC diameter with weight force compression to the upper thorax when the subject was in the prone position. This may have implications for the tactics of restraint to aid in the prevention of sudden, unexpected ARD cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)256-259
Number of pages4
JournalForensic Science International
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Oct 10 2011


  • Arrest-related death
  • Central venous return
  • Inferior vena cava
  • Ischemia
  • Neurocardiogenic reflex
  • Sudden death
  • Thoracic weight compression


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