Interstitial fluid pressure (IFP) distribution generated as a result of externally applied pressure (EAP) may play an important role in the etiology of decubitus ulcers. In the forelimbs of 10 thiopental sodium-anesthetized Yorkshire pigs, weighing 16-20 kg, we placed wick catheters 2-5 mm below the skin. After equilibration, we applied a pediatric cuff and added EAP. With zero EAP, the IFP was -3.9 +/- 1.4 (SD) mmHg. In each case of EAP, IFP as measured with the wick catheter increased and reached a plateau within 10-15 min. In normal tissues, IFP reached approximately 65-75% of EAP. When we created an edematous condition by preinfusing with excess saline, IFP was found to reach 100% of EAP. The total normal stress in the tissue, generated as a result of external cuff pressure, can be considered as a sum of interstitial fluid pressure and extranormal stress. Integrity of the fibrous network and pore fraction may be important in transmitting pressure to the fluid.