Blood flow patterns in painful diabetic neuropathy

Diabetologia. 1984 Dec;27(6):563-7. doi: 10.1007/BF00276968.


Peripheral blood flow is known to be qualitatively increased in diabetic patients with neuropathy. We have measured the actual blood flow in the feet of diabetic patients with neuropathy using non-invasive mercury strain gauge plethysmography and Doppler sonogram techniques and shown that it is increased on average five times above normal at an ambient temperature of 20 degrees-22 degrees C. Moreover, reduction of this high flow by sympathetic arousal stimuli proved possible in those with severe painful neuropathy contrasting strongly with failure to reverse it in those with severe non-painful sensory neuropathy. Reduction of blood flow was associated with reduction in neuropathic pain. We studied 22 diabetic patients with severe sensory neuropathy and eight with painful neuropathy. High resting foot blood flows were demonstrated in both groups with neuropathy. The big toe flow in those with severe sensory neuropathy was 29.3 +/- 9.2 ml X min-1. 100 ml-1 (mean +/- SD) and in the painful neuropathy group, 25.9 +/- 7.5, compared with 5.2 +/- 2.4 ml X min-1 X 100 ml-1 in the non-diabetic control subjects (p less than 0.001). High foot skin temperatures were also recorded in the groups with neuropathy, reflecting the high blood flow. The subjects with painful neuropathy retained the ability to constrict peripheral blood vessels in response to arousal stimuli, and reduce peripheral flow on average by 32% compared with the patients with sensory neuropathy who responded on average by only 10%. The demonstration of a peripheral sympathetic defect, responsible for the high blood flow and the potential reversal of such flow in painful neuropathy may be important in our further understanding of the aetiology of such pain and its treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / physiopathology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology*
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Foot / blood supply
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscles / blood supply
  • Pain, Intractable / physiopathology*
  • Regional Blood Flow*
  • Skin Temperature
  • Toes / blood supply