Local heating of human skin by millimeter waves: effect of blood flow

Bioelectromagnetics. 2005 Sep;26(6):489-501. doi: 10.1002/bem.20118.


We investigated the influence of blood perfusion on local heating of the forearm and middle finger skin following 42.25 GHz exposure with an open ended waveguide (WG) and with a YAV mm wave therapeutic device. Both sources had bell-shaped distributions of the incident power density (IPD) with peak intensities of 208 and 55 mW/cm(2), respectively. Blood perfusion was changed in two ways: by blood flow occlusion and by externally applied vasodilator (nonivamide/nicoboxil) cream to the skin. For thermal modeling, we used the bioheat transfer equation (BHTE) and the hybrid bioheat equation (HBHE) which combines the BHTE and the scalar effective thermal conductivity equation (ETCE). Under normal conditions with the 208 mW/cm(2) exposure, the cutaneous temperature elevation (DeltaT) in the finger (2.5 +/- 0.3 degrees C) having higher blood flow was notably smaller than the cutaneous DeltaT in the forearm (4.7 +/- 0.4 degrees C). However, heating of the forearm and finger skin with blood flow occluded was the same, indicating that the thermal conductivity of tissue in the absence of blood flow at both locations was also the same. The BHTE accurately predicted local hyperthermia in the forearm only at low blood flow. The HBHE made accurate predictions at both low and high perfusion rates. The relationship between blood flow and the effective thermal conductivity (k(eff)) was found to be linear. The heat dissipating effect of higher perfusion was mostly due to an apparent increase in k(eff). It was shown that mm wave exposure could result in steady state heating of tissue layers located much deeper than the penetration depth (0.56 mm). The surface DeltaT and heat penetration into tissue increased with enlarging the irradiating beam area and with increasing exposure duration. Thus, mm waves at sufficient intensities could thermally affect thermo-sensitive structures located in the skin and underlying tissue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Capsaicin / analogs & derivatives
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Energy Transfer
  • Fingers / physiology*
  • Fingers / radiation effects
  • Forearm / physiology*
  • Forearm / radiation effects
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Hyperthermia, Induced / methods*
  • Models, Biological
  • Nicotinic Acids / pharmacology
  • Regional Blood Flow / drug effects
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology
  • Regional Blood Flow / radiation effects
  • Skin / blood supply*
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Skin Temperature / drug effects
  • Skin Temperature / physiology*
  • Skin Temperature / radiation effects
  • Thermal Conductivity
  • Vasodilator Agents / pharmacology


  • Nicotinic Acids
  • Vasodilator Agents
  • nicoboxil
  • Capsaicin
  • nonivamide