Cold-induced vasodilatation following traumatic median or ulnar nerve injury
Purpose: Peripheral nerve injury of the upper extremity frequently causes changes in the thermoregulatory system of the hands and fingers and leads to reports of cold intolerance. In this study, we aimed to measure the influence of median or ulnar nerve injury on cold-induced vasodilatation (CIVD) during prolonged cooling at low temperatures. Methods: We tested 12 patients with a median (n = 6) or ulnar (n = 6) injury 4 to 76 months after nerve repair. The palmar sides of both hands were cooled continuously using a cold plate at 5°C. We measured the skin temperature of the fingers using videothermography and plotted graphs of the temperature changes of the nailbed. The presence of a CIVD reaction was defined as a minimum increase in temperature of 2.5°C starting at the distal phalanx. Furthermore, we measured self-reported symptoms of cold intolerance using the Cold Intolerance Severity Scale questionnaire. Results: A CIVD reaction was absent in the affected digits of 4 patients (follow-up, 637 mo), whereas the CIVD reaction in the uninjured hand was present. The CIVD was present in 6 patients after 50 months' follow-up (range, 2476 mo). Two patients had no CIVD reaction in the injured or uninjured fingers. All patients with a CIVD response had at least diminished protective sensation. Presence of the CIVD reaction did not exclude self-reported symptoms of cold intolerance. Conclusions: After peripheral nerve injury, it is possible to recover the CIVD reaction. This might be an indication of nerve recovery. However, a positive CIVD reaction does not exclude subjective symptoms of posttraumatic cold intolerance. Type of study/level of evidence: Diagnostic III.