Modelling of experimentally created partial-thickness human skin burns and subsequent therapeutic cooling: a new measure for cooling effectiveness

Dominique Van de Sompel, Tze Yean Kong, Yiannis Ventikos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Rapid post-injury cooling of a skin burn has been shown to have both symptomatic and therapeutic benefits. However, the latter cannot be explained by temperature reduction alone, and must thus be secondary to an altered biological response. In this study, we construct a computational model to calculate the heat transfer and damage accumulation in human skin during and after a burn. This enables us to assess the effectiveness of various cooling protocols (involving both free and forced convection to air and water respectively) in terms of their reduction in Arrhenius tissue damage. In this process, we propose an extension of the Arrhenius damage model in the form of a new measure ξ, which estimates the relevance of post-burn accrued damage. It was found that the reduction in Arrhenius damage integrals near the skin surface was too small to be physiologically relevant. Hence our results confirm that while the reduction in tissue temperatures is indeed quicker, the therapeutic benefit of cooling cannot be explained by thermal arguments (i.e. based on Arrhenius damage models) alone. We plan to validate this hypothesis by conducting future microarray analyses of differential gene expression in cooled and non-cooled burn lesions. Our computational model will support such experiments by calculating the necessary conditions to produce a burn of specified severity for a given experimental setup.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)624-631
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Engineering and Physics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Cooling
  • Damage integral
  • Numerical simulation
  • Plastic surgery

Cite this