Microcirculation and O2 Exchange through the Skin Surface: A Theoretical Analysis

  • D. W. Lübbers
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 361)


Oxygen is supplied to the upper layers of the human skin not only by blood, but also by surrounding air. Already in 1851 Gerlach measured this O2 uptake by glueing a horse bladder on the human skin (Gerlach (1851)). The bladder was made gas-tight by varnishing. He found that during a period of 24 hours the O2 concentration in the bladder decreased from 21.0% to 19.02%, whereas at the same time the CO2 concentration increased from 0% to 2.5%. He followed from his experiments that “the cutaneous respiration (i.e. the O2 uptake from the surrounding air) depends on the amount of blood which perfuses the uppermost capillaries and on its flow velocity. All that increases the amount of blood within the skin increases the cutaneous respiration.” To analyse the O2 supply of the different layers of the skin pO2 profiles perpendicularly to the skin surface have been measured (Baumgärtl et al. (1987). They reveal that there is a competition between the O2 supply by blood and that by surrounding air. Starting with the pO2 of the surrounding air tissue pO2 first decreases, reaches a minimum and then increases. This demonstrates that the upper part of the skin up to the pO2 minimum is supplied by the O2 of the air, i.e. by the O2 flux through the epidermis, whereas the other parts receive their O2 from the blood. The oxygen uptake from the air amounts to 80–100 ml O2/(m2·h), i.e. a human being with a skin surface of 1.5 m2 has an O2 uptake of 2.0–2.5 ml O2/min or of about 1% of its resting O2 uptake (Fitzgerald (1957). For the total organism it is a small amount, but it can be important for the oxygen supply of the skin.


Skin Surface Increase Blood Flow Dead Layer Capillary Loop Arterial Inflow 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baumgärtl, H., Ehrly, A.M., Saeger-Lorenz, K., and Lübbers, D.W., Initial results of intracutaneous measurements of pO2 profiles, in: Clinical Oxygen Pressure Measurement, Ehrly, A.M., Hauss, J., Huch, R. eds., pp 121–128, Springer Verlag Berlin, Heidelberg, New York, London, Paris, Tokyo (1987).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Fitzgerald, L.R., Cutaneous respiration. Physiol Rev 37: 325–336 (1957).PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Gerlach, Über das Hautathmen, Arch. Anat.Physiol.: 431–479, (1851)Google Scholar
  4. Hoist, G.A., Lübbers, D.W., and Voges, E., O2-flux-optode fir medical application, SPIE Adv. Fluorescence Sensing Technology 1885: 216–223 (1993).Google Scholar
  5. Huch, R., Huch, A., and Lübbers, D.W., 1981, Transcutaneous pO2, Georg Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart - New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Lübbers, D.W. and Grossmann, U., 1983, Gas exchange through the human epidermis as a basis of tcpO2 and tcpCO2 measurements, in: Continuous transcutaneous blood gas monitoring, Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York.Google Scholar
  7. Lübbers, D.W., 1992, Transcutaneous measurements of skin O2 supply and blood gases, in: Oxygen transport to tissue XIII, T.K. Goldstick, ed, Plenum Press, New York.Google Scholar
  8. Lübbers, D.W., Fluorescence based chemical sensors. Adv Biosens 2: 215–260 (1992).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. W. Lübbers
    • 1
  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular PhysiologyDortmundGermany

Personalised recommendations