Heating and pain sensation produced in human skin by millimeter waves: comparison to a simple thermal model

Health Phys. 2000 Mar;78(3):259-67. doi: 10.1097/00004032-200003000-00003.


Cutaneous thresholds for thermal pain were measured in 10 human subjects during 3-s exposures at 94 GHz continuous wave microwave energy at intensities up to approximately 1.8 W cm(-2). During each exposure, the temperature increase at the skin's surface was measured by infrared thermography. The mean (+/- s.e.m.) baseline temperature of the skin was 34.0+/-0.2 degrees C. The threshold for pricking pain was 43.9+/-0.7 degrees C, which corresponded to an increase in surface temperature of approximately 9.9 degrees C (from 34.0 degrees C to 43.9 degrees C). The measured increases in surface temperature were in good agreement with a simple thermal model that accounted for heat conduction and for the penetration depth of the microwave energy into tissue. Taken together, these results support the use of the model for predicting thresholds of thermal pain at other millimeter wave (length) frequencies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Physiological Phenomena
  • Body Temperature Regulation
  • Female
  • Health Physics
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microwaves / adverse effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological*
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Threshold
  • Skin / blood supply
  • Skin / injuries*
  • Skin / physiopathology*
  • Skin Temperature
  • Thermography