How Does Blood Get Pumped Out of the Legs?



The heart is an active pump. It beats until cardiac death occurs and actively pumps oxygenated blood to the organs and legs. There is no such pump that pumps un-oxygenated blood back to the heart. We rely on the “leg pump” for this purpose. The “leg pump” serves as the “peripheral heart”. Contraction of the calf muscles push on the veins and squeeze blood out of the leg. The most important of these movements in the lower extremity is moving the ankle joint.

As such, veins are equipped with one-way valves that prevent back flow during the return of blood from the toes to the heart. These valves act as trap doors that open with each muscle contraction and close when the muscle relaxes in order to prevent back flow of blood. More about these valves in the next section! When we travel in an airplane and don’t get the opportunity to get up and walk, we can flex and extend our ankle joint and help the calf squeeze blood out of the legs. This reduces blood pooling in the leg veins and therefore, reduces the likelihood of deep vein clot formation. 

This is taken from my upcoming book "Droctor, Tell Me About Vein Disorders" and


Article by
Buffalo General Surgeon