John Sunwoo 1 , Patjanaporn Chalacheva 1 , Maha Khaleel 2 , Payal Shah 2 , Richard Sposto 3 , Roberta M Kato 4 , Jon Detterich 5 , Lonnie K Zeltzer 6 , John C Wood 1 , 5 , Thomas D Coates 2 , Michael CK Khoo 1
05 October 2018
The purpose of this work was to noninvasively detect and quantify microvascular blood flow changes in response to externally applied pain in humans. The responsiveness of the microvasculature to pain stimulation might serve as an objective biomarker in diseases associated with altered pain perception and dysregulated vascular functions. The availability of such a biomarker may be useful as a tool for predicting outcome and response to treatments, particularly in diseases like sickle cell anemia where clinical manifestations are directly linked to microvascular perfusion. We, therefore, developed a method to distinguish the blood flow response due to the test stimulus from the blood flow measurement that also includes concurrent flow changes from unknown origins.
We measured the microvascular blood flow response in 24 healthy subjects in response to a train of randomly spaced and scaled heat pulses on the anterior forearm. The fingertip microvascular perfusion was measured using laser Doppler flowmetry. The cross-correlation between the heat pulses and the blood flow response was computed and tested for significance against the null distribution obtained from the baseline recording using bootstrapping method.
We estimated correlation coefficients, response time, response significance, and the magnitude of vasoreactivity from microvascular blood flow responses. Based on these pain response indices, we identified strong responders and subjects who did not show significant responses.
The cross-correlation of a random pattern of painful stimuli with directly measured microvascular flow can detect vasoconstriction responses in a noisy blood flow signal, determine the time between stimulus and response, and quantify the magnitude of this response. This approach provided an objective measurement of vascular response to pain that may be an inherent characteristic of individual human subjects, and may also be related to the severity of vascular disorders.