Transcutaneous oxygen pressure (TcPO2) and skin blood flow (as evaluated by laser doppler) (LD) were investigated in 24 systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients in sclerotic skin (dorsal aspect of the hand) and non-sclerotic skin (interscapular region) and in 24 controls matched for sex and age for the same sites. The two parameters were evaluated at 44 degrees C (temperature of the two sensors) in 13 patients and 13 controls, and at 36-37 degrees C in the remaining 11. At 44 degrees C, TcPO2 was lower in SSc patients than in controls for both sclerotic and non-sclerotic skin. At 37 degrees C there was no significant difference. At 44 degrees C, LD values were decreased in patients with respect to controls for both sclerotic and and non-sclerotic skin. In contrast, at 37 degrees C the values were increased in patients only for the sclerotic skin. It can be hypothesized that the increased LD values at physiological temperature are at least in part balancing a decreased tissue oxygen tension, then a normal TcPO2 is ensured. On the other hand, the decreased LD values at 44 degrees C, when TcPO2 is also decreased, indicates that there is an inability of SSc vessels to significantly increase their flow under the stimulus of a maximal hyperaemia-inducing temperature.