Laser Doppler flux measurement for the assessment of cutaneous microcirculation – critical remarks


Back scattered Laser Doppler (LD) signals are composed of two different individual signals. The number of the moving particles and the speed of the particles in the measured tissue volume determine the frequency shift and the band width of the Doppler signal. The dependence of the Laser Doppler flux on the number of scattering particles is highly nonlinear: at very low hematocrit and high speed the axial migration of the cells to the centre of the blood vessels is very strong, so that in these cases – because of the parabolic flow profile - the Doppler flux measurement overestimates the mean real blood flow (up to two- or three-fold). The opposite is the case when the hematocrit is very high, then the blood flow might be underestimated (due to the increased amounts of blood cells near the vessel wall). In addition, a very change in number of moving particles - as can occur during the postprandial phase or during therapy - can change the signal also at a constant cell number. Also, it must be mentioned that the LD signal possibly is not only reflected by moving blood cells in the different skin layers but also by blood cells flowing in tissues below the skin (particularly below atrophied skin areas of older patients) so that in such cases the LD Flux signal reflects not exclusively the skin blood flow. Therefore, LD flux at rest may still be within the normal range even in advanced states of disease, since the scattered light is sampled from a tissue volume which may contain also non-nutritive shunt vessels. This critical analysis of the LD signals of course shall not lead to an overall rejection of the application of laser Doppler systems. Actual progress only can, however, be obtained under the exact consideration of anatomical conditions, technical restrictions and when generalizations are avoided.
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