Review Articles| Volume 83, ISSUE 8, P1165-1170, August 2002

Download started.


The Law of Laplace and its relevance to contemporary medicine and rehabilitation


      Basford JR. The Law of Laplace and its relevance to contemporary medicine and rehabilitation. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2002;83:1165-70. Objective: To show that the Law of Laplace is not only a historical curiosity but also remains relevant to our daily teaching and clinical activities. Data Sources: Comprehensive MEDLINE (1960–2000) and CINAHL (1982–2000) computer literature searches performed by using key words such as Law of Laplace, Laplace, and Laplace relationship. Additional references were obtained from the bibliographies of the selected articles. Supplementary searches were also made by using various Internet search engines. Study Selection: Primary references were used whenever possible. Data Extraction: A single reviewer assessed all references and extracted information relevant to the Law of Laplace. Data Synthesis: Although the Law of Laplace is attributed to Pierre Simon de Laplace, Laplace may not deserve the credit for the discovery. Nevertheless, the relationship (T [tension] α P [pressure] R [radius]) is easily derived and improves our understanding of the physiologic basis of many of our medical and rehabilitation practices. For example, the Law provides an insight into the mechanism of action of compression garments and lumbosacral orthoses, an understanding of the role of uterine muscle during delivery, and a reason why cesarean sections are made in the lower uterus. In addition, the Law explains many aspects of such diverse phenomena as penile erection, compartment syndromes, and peripheral edema. Perhaps most important, the Law explains the basis of many common medical practices that we use to promote bladder emptying, to control edema, and to plan surgery. Conclusion: The Law of Laplace explains the mechanism of a wide range of physiologic phenomena. Unfortunately, even though it was developed about 200 years ago, the insights it provides us are often underused. More consideration of its implications can improve our clinical practice, our teaching, and our enjoyment of medicine. © 2002 by the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine and the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


      1. Evolution of the solar system.
        in: The world of physics: a small library of the literature of physics from antiquity to the present. Simon & Schuster, New York1987: 579-582
        • Vogel S.
        Pliant pipes. Vital circuits on pumps, pipes, and the workings of circulatory systems.
        in: Oxford Univ Pr, New York1992: 115-133
        • Stillwell GK
        The Law of Laplace. Some clinical applications.
        Mayo Clin Proc. 1973; 48: 863-869
        • Friedman J.
        Functional properties of blood.
        in: 4th ed. Physiology. Little, Brown, Boston1976: 241-272
        • Ortega R.
        A simple device to demonstrate the law of Laplace [letter].
        Anesth Analg. 1992; 75: 307
        • Hinman Jr., F
        Pascal, Laplace and a length of bowel.
        J Urol (Paris). 1989; 95: 11-14
      2. 7th ed. Campbell's urology. WB Saunders, Philadelphia1998: 935
        • Damaser MS
        • Arner A
        • Uvelius B.
        Partial outlet obstruction induces chronic distension and increased stiffness of rat urinary bladder.
        Neurourol Urodyn. 1996; 15: 650-665
        • Rockson S.
        Am J Med. 2001; 110: 288-295
        • Tazelaar D
        • Neumann H
        • De Roos K.
        Long cotton wool rolls as compression enhancers in macrosclerotherapy for varicose veins.
        Dermatol Surg. 1999; 25: 38-40
        • Sacks MS
        • Vorp DA
        • Raghavan ML
        • Federle MP
        • Webster MW
        In vivo three-dimensional surface geometry of abdominal aortic aneurysms.
        Ann Biomed Eng. 1999; 27: 469-479
        • Flugge W.
        Tensor analysis and continuum mechanics.
        in: Springer-Verlag, New York1972: 207
        • Parmley WW
        Pathophysiology of congestive heart failure.
        Am J Cardiol. 1985; 56: 9A-14A
      3. Contractile performance of the intact heart.
        in: 5th ed. Heart disease: a textbook of cardiovascular medicine. WB Saunders, Philadelphia1997: 379-380
        • Berk BC
        Biology of the vascular wall in hypertension.
        in: 6th ed. Brenner & Rector's the kidney. WB Saunders, Philadelphia2000: 1975
        • Benumof JL
        Respiratory physiology and respiratory function during anesthesia.
        in: Basics of anesthesia. Churchill Livingstone, New York2000: 587-588
        • Jackson FW
        • Adrain AL
        • Black M
        • Miller LS
        Calculation of esophageal variceal wall tension by direct sonographic and manometric measurements.
        Gastrointest Endosc. 1999; 50: 247-251
        • Noveroske RJ
        Two applications of the Law of LaPlace to obstetrics.
        J Indiana State Med Assoc. 1979; 72: 416-417
        • Brodman HR
        • Brodman LE
        • Brodman RF
        Etiology of abdominoscrotal hydrocele.
        Urology. 1977; 10: 564-565
        • Jarzem PF
        • Quance DR
        • Doyle DJ
        • Begin LR
        • Kostuik JP
        Spinal cord tissue pressure during spinal cord distraction in dogs.
        Spine. 1992; 17: S227-S234
        • Lundbech PE
        • Kirkeby HJ
        • Djurhuus JC
        A hydrodynamic model of rabbit corpus cavernosum pressure responses to vasodilators.
        Urol Int. 1993; 50: 65-70
        • Mower WR
        • Baraff LJ
        • Sneyd J.
        Stress distributions in vascular aneurysms: factors affecting risk of aneurysm rupture.
        J Surg Res. 1993; 55: 155-161
        • Sejersted OM
        • Hargens AR
        Intramuscular pressures for monitoring different tasks and muscle conditions.
        Adv Exp Med Biol. 1995; 384: 339-350
        • Raj JU
        • Conhaim RL
        • Bhattacharya J.
        Micropuncture measurement of alveolar liquid pressure in excised dog lung lobes.
        J Appl Physiol. 1987; 62: 781-784
        • Bullock JD
        • Warwar RE
        • Green WR
        Ocular explosions from periocular anesthetic injections: a clinical, histopathologic, experimental, and biophysical study.
        Ophthalmology. 1999; 106: 2341-2352
        • Szczudlowski K.
        Glaucoma hypothesis: application of the Law of Laplace.
        Med Hypotheses. 1979; 5: 481-486