1. Skin microcirculation was investigated in 12 asymptomatic subjects and 76 patients, grouped according to their ankle-to-brachial systolic blood pressure index, in order to evaluate to what extent posturally induced microvascular constriction is dependent on the stage of leg ischaemia at different local skin temperatures.
2. Skin microcirculation was assessed in the supine and sitting position by using laser Doppler fluxmetry at unheated skin temperature and at 36°C, and transcutaneous oximetry at 37°C and 44°C.
3. Skin perfusion and oxygenation diminished with decreasing ankle-to-brachial systolic blood pressure index. In healthy control subjects, perfusion and oxygenation were reduced when changing from the supine to the sitting position, but were enhanced in patients with severe leg ischaemia (ankle-to-brachial systolic blood pressure < 30%), indicating disturbed posturally induced vasoconstriction.
4. Increasing the local skin temperature resulted in a higher perfusion and masked the posturally induced vasoconstriction in healthy subjects. In patients with severe leg ischaemia, however, perfusion was unaltered by the temperature increase, apparently because the microvessels were already maximally dilated. The induction of reactive hyperaemia produced no additional increase in perfusion or oxygenation.
5. It is concluded that posturally induced microvascular constriction in the skin is disturbed in patients with severe leg ischaemia (ankle-to-brachial systolic blood pressure index < 30%). Disturbed microvascular constriction upon dependency was also seen in healthy subjects after local skin heating. This suggests that posturally induced vasoconstriction is mainly regulated by local mechanisms.