The use of a tourniquet leads to nerve damage, even if applied for short periods of time. This damage can be minimized if the limb is cooled. Because of the low conductivities of human tissue, core limb cooling is slow unless the surface temperature is very cool. Subzero surface temperatures can lead to skin injury (i.e., frostbite). Ideally one would adjust the limb surface temperatures as a function of time to maximize the cooling rate while avoiding permanent tissue damage. One possible approach is to use a thermoelectric cooler (TEC) in conjunction with a programmable power supply. TEC performance varies strongly with heat absorption rate, a function of limb thermal properties, and hot side temperatures that are strongly affected by the surface conditions on the hot side, i.e., overall heat transfer coefficients and ambient conditions.
The paper describes the use of finite element simulation to predict the usefulness of using thermoelectric coolers applied to the surface of a limb when compared to the standard approach of using ice packs. Since the TEC performance is strongly influenced by its warm side thermal conditions, experimental results are presented for different ambient temperatures, free and forced convection, and evaporation of water from a wickable covering.