The goal of this study was to investigate the persistence of cold-induced vasoconstriction following cessation of active skin-surface cooling. This study demonstrates a hysteresis effect that develops between skin temperature and blood perfusion during the cooling and subsequent rewarming period. An Arctic Ice cryotherapy unit (CTU) was applied to the knee region of six healthy subjects for 60 min of active cooling followed by 120 min of passive rewarming. Multiple laser Doppler flowmetry perfusion probes were used to measure skin blood flow (expressed as cutaneous vascular conductance (CVC)). Skin surface cooling produced a significant reduction in CVC (P < 0.001) that persisted throughout the duration of the rewarming period. In addition, there was a hysteresis effect between CVC and skin temperature during the cooling and subsequent rewarming cycle (P < 0.01). Mixed model regression (MMR) showed a significant difference in the slopes of the CVC–skin temperature curves during cooling and rewarming (P < 0.001). Piecewise regression was used to investigate the temperature thresholds for acceleration of CVC during the cooling and rewarming periods. The two thresholds were shown to be significantly different (P = 0.003). The results show that localized cooling causes significant vasoconstriction that continues beyond the active cooling period despite skin temperatures returning toward baseline values. The significant and persistent reduction in skin perfusion may contribute to nonfreezing cold injury (NFCI) associated with cryotherapy.

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