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Arch Dermatol Res. 2011 Mar;303(2):69-78. doi: 10.1007/s00403-010-1087-7. Epub 2010 Oct 23.

Sidestream dark field imaging: the evolution of real-time visualization of cutaneous microcirculation and its potential application in dermatology.

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  • 1Clinical and Experimental Research Laboratory on Vascular Biology (BioVasc), Biomedical Center, State University of Rio de Janeiro, Pavilhão Reitor Haroldo Lisboa da Cunha, Rua São Francisco Xavier 524, Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Technological advances during the last years have enhanced the image quality of the microcirculation. Intravital microscopy (IM) has been considered the "gold standard" for many years, but it can be used mostly in anesthetized animals which is a disadvantage. The nailfold videocapillaroscopy, a non-invasive examination that includes a microscope with an epiillumination system, came afterward, but its major disadvantage is the restricted area available for investigation namely the nailfold capillary bed. The orthogonal polarization spectral (OPS) imaging technique, where reflected light allows the visualization of the microcirculation, was the next non-invasive exam, but it still presents some drawbacks such as suboptimal capillary visualization and image blurring due to red blood cell movements. Excessive probe pressure modifies red blood cell velocity. There is suboptimal imaging of capillaries due to motion-induced image blurring by movements of OPS device, tissue and/or flowing red blood cells. Sidestream dark field (SDF) imaging is the newest tool for microcirculatory research. Illumination is provided by concentrically placed light-emitting diodes to avoid image blurring and to enhance image contrast. It represents a simple and non-invasive imaging technique, with low cost, good portability and high sensitivity that provides fine, well-defined images. In addition, the microcirculation can be studied through laser Doppler flowmetry (LDF) or reflectance-mode confocal-laser-scanning microscopy (RCLM). However, LDF cannot show microcirculatory vessels and high cost of RCLM can be an inconvenience. New applications of SDF technique could include skin microcirculatory evaluation and allow dermatological studies on psoriasis, skin tumors and leprosy.

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