The object of this study was to devise a unified method for comparing different thermal techniques for the estimation of blood perfusion rates and to perform a comparison for several common techniques. The approach used was to develop analytical models for the temperature response for all combinations of five power deposition geometries (spherical, one- and two-dimensional cylindrical, and one- and two-dimensional Gaussian) and three transient heating techniques (temperature pulse-decay, temperature step function, and constant-power heat-up) plus one steady-state heating technique. The transient models were used to determine the range of times (the time window) when a significant portion of the transient temperature response was due to blood perfusion. This time window was defined to begin when the difference between the conduction-only and the conduction-plus-blood flow transient temperature (or power) responses exceeded a specified value, and to end when the conduction-plus-blood flow transient temperature (or power) reached a specified fraction of its steady-state value. The results are summarized in dimensionless plots showing the size of the time windows for each of the transient perfusion estimation techniques. Several conclusions were drawn, in particular: (a) low perfusions are difficult to estimate because of the dominance of conduction, (b) large heated regions are better suited for estimation of low perfusions, (c) noninvasive heating techniques are superior because they have the potential to minimize conduction effects, and (d) none of the transient techniques appears to be clearly superior to the others.

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