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01.12.2018 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

Annals of Intensive Care 1/2018

Skin microcirculatory reactivity assessed using a thermal challenge is decreased in patients with circulatory shock and associated with outcome

Annals of Intensive Care > Ausgabe 1/2018
Diego Orbegozo, Wasineenart Mongkolpun, Gianni Stringari, Nikolaos Markou, Jacques Creteur, Jean-Louis Vincent, Daniel De Backer
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s13613-018-0393-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Shock states are characterized by impaired tissue perfusion and microcirculatory alterations, which are directly related to outcome. Skin perfusion can be noninvasively evaluated using skin laser Doppler (SLD), which, when coupled with a local thermal challenge, may provide a measure of microcirculatory reactivity. We hypothesized that this microvascular reactivity would be impaired in patients with circulatory shock and would be a marker of severity.


We first evaluated skin blood flow (SBF) using SLD on the forearm and on the palm in 18 healthy volunteers to select the site with maximal response. Measurements were taken at 37 °C (baseline) and repeated at 43 °C. The 43 °C/37 °C SBF ratio was calculated as a measure of microvascular reactivity. We then evaluated the SBF in 29 patients with circulatory shock admitted to a 35-bed department of intensive care and in a confirmatory cohort of 35 patients with circulatory shock.


In the volunteers, baseline SBF was higher in the hand than in the forearm, but the SBF ratio was lower (11.2 [9.4–13.4] vs. 2.0 [1.7–2.6], p < 0.01) so we used the forearm for our patients. Baseline forearm SBF was similar in patients with shock and healthy volunteers, but the SBF ratio was markedly lower in the patients (2.6 [2.0–3.6] vs. 11.2 [9.4–13.4], p < 0.01). Shock survivors had a higher SBF ratio than non-survivors (3.2 [2.2–6.2] vs. 2.3 [1.7–2.8], p < 0.01). These results were confirmed in the second cohort of 35 patients. In multivariable analysis, the APACHE II score and the SBF ratio were independently associated with mortality.


Microcirculatory reactivity is decreased in patients with circulatory shock and has prognostic value. This simple, noninvasive test could help in monitoring the peripheral microcirculation in acutely ill patients.
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