Effects of blood flow on skin heating induced by millimeter wave irradiation in humans

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We have previously reported species differences in the rate of skin heating in response to millimeter wavelength microwave exposure. We hypothesized that these differences were predominantly a function of species differences in the ability to increase skin blood flow during local heating. Mathematical modeling also suggested that, in humans, the rate of skin heating during prolonged millimeter wavelength exposure would be dependent on skin blood flow. In order to empirically test this hypothesis, we determined the role of baseline skin blood flow on the rate of cutaneous heating induced by 94-GHz microwave energy in humans (3 female, 3 male) using infrared thermography and laser Doppler imaging to measure skin temperature and relative skin blood flow, respectively. Millimeter wavelength exposure intensities used were high power (HP), 1 W·cm-2 for 4 s and low power, 175 mW cm-2 for 180 s. Skin blood flow was (a) normal, (b) eliminated using a blood pressure cuff to occlude forearm blood flow, or (c) elevated by heating the skin prior to irradiation. Results showed that for the HP exposures, these manipulations did not influence the rate of skin heating. For the low power exposures, occlusion of baseline skin blood flow had a small impact on the subsequent rate of heating. In contrast, a two-fold elevation in baseline skin blood flow had a profound impact on the subsequent rate of heating, resulting in a substantially lower rate of heating. Occlusion of an elevated skin blood flow reversed this lower rate of heating. The results of these studies demonstrate that relatively small changes in skin blood flow may produce substantial alterations in the rate of skin heating during prolonged 94-GHz exposure.

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Health Physics