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Clin Phys Physiol Meas. 1981 Aug;2(3):205-15.

Photoelectric plethysmography--some fundamental aspects of the reflection and transmission method.


In photoelectric plethysmography a distinction is made between the reflection methods. Uncertainties still exist, especially regarding the origin of the reflected signal: some investigators attach quantitative value to the amplitude of the plethysmogram. The various findings are reconsidered. Various fluids are pulsatingly pumped through an in vitro circuit. Flow, pressure and volume pulsations are measured, as is the total light intensity detected by a photoelectric plethysmograph with the small variations caused in it by the pulsations in flow. Both phase and amplitude of the resulting plethysmogram are studied and the results compared with those found in vivo at the fingers and auricles. In vitro, the variations in light reflection are in phase with the volume pulsations: this can only be ascribed to reflection by orienting erythrocytes. In vivo, however, the light reflection, like the light transmission, is in anti-phase with the volume excursions, thus eliminating the determinative effect of light reflection by orienting erythrocytes--the strong reflection from surrounding tissues completely dominates reflection from erythrocytes. Since erythrocytes also have absorptive properties, and the light reflection is in anti-phase with the volume excursions, it is concluded that this absorptivity can manifest itself over the strong reflection from surrounding tissue. In vivo, therefore, the reflection plethysmogram is, in principle, an absorption measurement. The relationship between intensity of detected light and resultant voltage may not be linear: this nonlinearity may not be neglected when amplitude changes are compared. Amplitude changes of different plethysmograms may only be compared quantitatively if there is no difference in their light-voltage relationship.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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