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Heat transfer model for deep tissue injury: a step towards an early thermographic diagnostic capability

Akanksha Bhargava1, Arjun Chanmugam2 and Cila Herman1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Mechanical Engineering, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA

2 Department of Emergency Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA

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Diagnostic Pathology 2014, 9:36  doi:10.1186/1746-1596-9-36

Published: 20 February 2014



Deep tissue injury (DTI) is a class of serious lesions which develop in the deep tissue layers as a result of sustained tissue loading or pressure-induced ischemic injury. DTI lesions often do not become visible on the skin surface until the injury reaches an advanced stage, making their early detection a challenging task.


Early diagnosis leading to early treatment mitigates the progression of the lesion and remains one of the priorities in clinical care. The aim of the study is to relate changes in tissue temperature with key physiological changes occurring at the tissue level to develop criteria for the detection of incipient DTIs.


Skin surface temperature distributions of the damaged tissue were analyzed using a multilayer tissue model. Thermal response of the skin surface to a cooling stress, was computed for deep tissue inflammation and deep tissue ischemia, and then compared with computed skin temperature of healthy tissue.


For a deep lesion situated in muscle and fat layers, measurable skin temperature differences were observed within the first five minutes of thermal recovery period including temperature increases between 0.25°C to 0.9°C during inflammation and temperature decreases between −0.2°C to −0.5°C during ischemia.


The computational thermal models can explain previously published thermographic findings related to DTIs and pressure ulcers. It is concluded that infrared thermography can be used as an objective, non-invasive and quantitative means of early DTI diagnosis.

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Deep tissue injury (DTI); Ischemia; Inflammation; Heat transfer model; Computational model; Skin surface temperature; Early diagnosis; Infrared (IR) thermography