A physical and mathematical model of the superficial tissues of the body is presented which takes into account tissue physiology, structure and blood supply. The model relates transient temperature changes at the skin surface to underlying physiological parameters. The analysis is based on a one-dimensional finite difference version of the bioheat equation applied to a multi-layered model of the superficial 10 mm of body tissue. Application of the model to the volar forearm predicts that under steady-state conditions skin surface temperature is maintained primarily by heat transfer from tissues below 10 mm, to a lesser extent by perfusion and to a small extent by superficial tissue metabolism. Model predictions of the reheat curve following a 15 s cold challenge to the skin agree closely with preliminary experimental data provided by thermography. The model also provides a physical explanation for the shape of the skin temperature reheat curve. Calculations further suggest that transient skin surface temperature measurements can provide a better indication of dermal perfusion than static temperature measurements as the effects of variations in environmental conditions, deep tissue temperature and tissue metabolism can be reduced.
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