The peripheral vascular responses in non-freezing cold injury and matched controls

Clare Eglin*, Jennifer Anne Wright, Matthew Maley, Sarah Hollis, Heather Massey, Hugh Montgomery, Mike Tipton

*Corresponding author for this work

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The impact of non-freezing cold injury (NFCI) on peripheral vascular function was investigated. Individuals with NFCI (NFCI) and closely matched controls with either similar (COLD) or limited (CON) previous cold exposure were compared (n = 16). Peripheral cutaneous vascular responses to deep inspiration (DI), occlusion (PORH), local cutaneous heating (LH) and iontophoresis of acetylcholine and sodium nitroprusside were investigated. The responses to a cold sensitivity test (CST) involving immersion of a foot in 15 °C water for 2 minutes followed by spontaneous rewarming, and a foot cooling protocol (footplate cooled from 34 °C to 15 °C), were also examined. The vasoconstrictor response to DI was lower in NFCI compared to CON (toe: 73 [28] % vs 91 [17]; P = 0.003). The responses to PORH, LH and iontophoresis were not reduced compared to either COLD or CON. During the CST, toe skin temperature rewarmed more slowly in NFCI than COLD or CON (10 min: 27.4 [2.3] °C vs 30.7 [3.7] °C and 31.7 [3.9] °C, P < 0.05 respectively), however no differences were observed during the footplate cooling. NFCI were more cold-intolerant (P < 0.0001) and reported colder and more uncomfortable feet during the CST and footplate cooling than COLD and CON (P < 0.05). NFCI showed a decreased sensitivity to sympathetic vasoconstrictor activation than CON and greater cold sensitivity (CST) compared to COLD and CON. None of the other vascular function tests indicated endothelial dysfunction. However, NFCI perceived their extremities to be colder and more uncomfortable/painful than the controls.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-437
Number of pages18
JournalExperimental Physiology
Issue number3
Early online date19 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


  • cold injury
  • pathophysiology
  • vascular

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