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Effect of local cold provocation on systolic blood pressure and skin blood flow in the finger


Per Wollmer, Department of Clinical Physiology, Malmö University Hospital, SE-205 02 Malmö, Sweden


Demonstration of increased vascular cold reactivity in patients with Raynaud’s syndrome is difficult. For medico-legal reasons, it is important to get objective measures of vasospasm in these patients. Evaluation of the degree of vasospasm also provides prognostic information which is useful for patient management. In this study, we compare two methods of arterial circulation measurement. The laser Doppler scanning is a new method, which uses the recently developed laser Doppler perfusion imaging (LDPI) instrument. The aim of the present study was to compare the effect on finger skin blood flow measured with LDPI with changes in finger systolic blood pressure during local cold provocation. The effect of such provocation, skin blood flow and systolic blood pressure, were studied in 15 healthy controls. Six patients with known traumatic vasospastic disease (TVD) were also tested with both methods. Finger skin blood flow was measured with LDPI on the distal phalanx of the index finger of the left hand, every minutes during 6 min of local heating at 40°C followed by local cooling for 3 min at 15°C and then for 3 min at 10°C. Finger systolic blood pressure was measured with strain-gauge method before and after local cooling to 10°C with a cuff perfused with water of desired temperature. The test was performed in the same finger within a week of the laser Doppler scanning. Local finger cooling to 15°C and 10°C caused a significant decrease in blood flow, most marked at 10°C. There was, however, no correlation between the decrease in blood flow and blood pressure. In the TVD-patients decreases in skin blood flow were similar compared with the healthy controls. In contrast, the changes in systolic blood pressure, were outside normal range (systolic quotient <0·65) in five of the six patients (83%), and also in 11 of the 15 healthy controls (73%). In conclusion, there is no correlation between the decrease in finger skin blood flow and systolic blood pressure during local cold provocation. For diagnosis of traumatic vasospastic disease (TVD), local cold-induced changes in finger systolic blood pressure seems superior to changes in skin blood flow, but the ideal clinical method for demonstrating increased cold-induced vasospasm is, however, still lacking.