Assessment of endothelial and neurovascular function in human skin microcirculation

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2013 Jul;34(7):373-84. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2013 Jun 21.


Peripheral microvascular dysfunction has been described in many physiological and pathological conditions. Owing to its accessibility, the cutaneous microcirculation provides a unique index of microvascular function. Skin microvascular function has therefore been proposed as a prognostic marker or for evaluating the effect of drugs on the microcirculation. Various reactivity tests, coupled with techniques measuring skin blood flux, are used to non-invasively explore both endothelial and neurovascular microvascular functioning in humans. We review the advantages and limitations of the main reactivity tests, including post-occlusive reactive hyperemia, local thermal hyperemia, pressure-induced vasodilation, and iontophoresis of vasodilators, combined with measurement techniques such as laser Doppler and laser speckle contrast imaging. Recent advances in our comprehension of the physiological pathways underlying these reactivity tests, as well as technological developments in microcirculation imaging, have provided reliable and reproducible tools for studying the microcirculation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Cardiovascular*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Hyperemia / physiopathology
  • Iontophoresis
  • Laser-Doppler Flowmetry
  • Microcirculation*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Pressure
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Skin / blood supply*
  • Vasodilation
  • Vasodilator Agents / administration & dosage


  • Vasodilator Agents