Tissue Viability Imaging of Skin Microcirculation Following Exposure to Whole Body Cryotherapy (-110°C) and Cold Water Immersion (8°C)

Joseph Thomas Costello, Paul McNamara, Marie-Louise O’Connell, LA Algar, Martin Leahy, Alan Donnelly


Cryotherapy is currently used in various clinical, rehabilitative and sporting settings. However, very little is known regarding the impact of cooling on the microcirculatory response. Objectives: The present study sought to examine the influence of two commonly employed modalities of cryotherapy, whole body cryotherapy (WBC; -110°C) and cold water immersion (CWI; 8±1°C), on skin microcirculation in the mid thigh region. Methods: The skin area examined was a 3 ´ 3 cm located between the most anterior aspect of the inguinal fold and the patella. Following 10 minutes of rest, 5 healthy, active males were exposed to either WBC for 3 minutes or CWI for 5 minutes in a randomised order. Volunteers lay supine for five minutes after treatment, in order to monitor the variation of red blood cell (RBC) concentration in the region of interest for a duration of 40 minutes. Microcirculation response was assessed using a non-invasive, portable instrument known as a Tissue Viability imaging system. After a minimum of seven days, the protocol was repeated. Subjective assessment of the volunteer’s thermal comfort and thermal sensation was also recorded. Results: RBC was altered following exposure to both WBC and CWI but appeared to stabilise approximately 35 minutes after treatments. Both WBC and CWI affected thermal sensation (p < 0.05), however no between group differences in thermal comfort or sensation were recorded (p > 0.05). Conclusions: As both WBC and CWI altered RBC, further study is necessary to examine the mechanism for this alteration during whole body cooling.


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