Assessment of microvascular function by use of transdermal iontophoresis : methodological aspects

Sammanfattning: Assessment of the microcirculation is of major importance in understanding the physiology of the vasculature and in assessing te vascular effects of pathological conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and sepsis. Transdermal iontophoresis can be used to non‐invasively introduce vasoactive drugs into the skin. The response to these drugs of the local cutaneous microvasculature can be measured by laser Doppler flowmetry methods. Although these techniques have been used together for over two decades, there are still important methodological issues to be resolved. This work is aimed at optimizing transdermal iontophoresis as a tool for microvascular assessment by focusing on the main methdological issues: non‐specific vasodilatation, drug delivery protocols and analysis of blood flow data.Non‐specific vasodilatation, an increase blood flow during iontophoresis of non‐vasoactive compounds, is an important problem as it interferes with the response to the administered drug. By investigating this effect in healthy volunteers, we found that the extent of the non‐specific response differs between the positive and negative electrode and that it is dependent on the voltage over the skin andon the ionic strength of the vehicle in which the drug is dissolved. We also found that the extent of the non‐specific response could be reduced by applying local anesthetics and by pre‐treatment with antihistamine drugs. These results suggest that non‐specific effects could be mediated by depolarization or hyperpolarisation of cells, triggering neural and histamine related mechanisms that finally lead to vasodilatation of the local microvasculature.To prevent non‐specific effects from occurring during the experiments, our results show that the current strength and the total electric charge during iontophoresis should be limited to 0.02 mA and12 mC, respectively. Furthermore, drug solutions at physiological ionic strengths should be used. Under these conditions, adequate responses to the most commonly used drugs, acetylcholine (ACh) and sodium nitroprusside (SNP), are obtained while no significant non‐specific vasodilatation occurs.The results of our investigations show that blood responses to ACh and SNP applied by a single iontophoretic pulse can well be escribed by conventional dose‐response models, which enables a more powerful analysis and comparison between drugs or possibly patient groups as compared with conventional aalysis methods. Finally, we have incorporated drug transport and physiological response to the local drug concentration during iontophoresis of vasoactve drugs into a single model. Validation of this model using measured responses to ACh and SNP shows that the commonly used assumption that the local drug concentration during iontophoresis is linearly proportional to the electric charge may not be valid.