Effects of local cooling on sacral skin perfusion response to pressure: Implications for pressure ulcer prevention

Yi Ting Tzen, David M. Brienza, Patricia Karg, Patrick Loughlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


People with spinal cord injuries are at high risk for developing pressure ulcers. Increased skin temperature is one of the extrinsic causative factors for this multi-factorial disease. Previous animal studies revealed that local skin cooling reduced the severity of ulceration, and cooling is widely used in plastic surgery and organ transplants for tissue preservation. The objectives of this pilot study were to develop test protocols and instrumentation and to investigate the effect of local cooling on skin perfusion response to pressure on young healthy human subjects. Reactive hyperemia was quantified in this study to compare the effects of pressure with and without cooling. Reactive hyperemia is a normal physiological response occurring after vessel occlusion. Laser Doppler flowmetry was used to measure skin blood flow. Time-dependent spectral analysis was used to analyze and decompose the blood flow data into frequency ranges associated with specific blood flow control mechanisms. The study used a repeated measures design with two test conditions: 8 kPa of pressure with and without cooling to 25 °C. We hypothesized that local cooling would reduce the post-ischemic reactive hyperemic response induced by the rigid indenter. Time series results showed that normalized peak perfusion response was significantly lower with cooling (p = 0.019). Time-dependent spectral analysis results suggested that both metabolic and myogenic responses contribute to this protective effect. Findings from our study on humans were consistent with previous animal studies. Additional studies on individuals with spinal cord injury are planned to further evaluate the cooling effect in a high-risk population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-97
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Tissue Viability
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Laser Doppler flowmetry
  • Local cooling
  • Pressure ulcers
  • Skin temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Dermatology


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