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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2010 Oct;109(4):1239-46. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00414.2010. Epub 2010 May 27.

Thermal provocation to evaluate microvascular reactivity in human skin.

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  • 1Dept. of Human Physiology, Univ. of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1240, USA.


With increased interest in predictive medicine, development of a relatively noninvasive technique that can improve prediction of major clinical outcomes has gained considerable attention. Current tests that are the target of critical evaluation, such as flow-mediated vasodilation of the brachial artery and pulse-wave velocity, are specific to the larger conduit vessels. However, evidence is mounting that functional changes in the microcirculation may be an early sign of globalized microvascular dysfunction. Thus development of a test of microvascular reactivity that could be used to evaluate cardiovascular risk or response to treatment is an exciting area of innovation. This mini-review is focused on tests of microvascular reactivity to thermal stimuli in the cutaneous circulation. The skin may prove to be an ideal site for evaluation of microvascular dysfunction due to its ease of access and growing evidence that changes in skin vascular reactivity may precede overt clinical signs of disease. Evaluation of the skin blood flow response to locally applied heat has already demonstrated prognostic utility, and the response to local cooling holds promise in patients in whom cutaneous disorders are present. Whether either of these tests can be used to predict cardiovascular morbidity or mortality in a clinical setting requires further evaluation.

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