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Using Thermoelectric Cooling With Tourniquets for Nerve Preservation

[+] Author Affiliations
M. Trupiano, S. Aarabi, A. F. Emery

University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Paper No. HT2016-7236, pp. V002T12A001; 9 pages
  • ASME 2016 Heat Transfer Summer Conference collocated with the ASME 2016 Fluids Engineering Division Summer Meeting and the ASME 2016 14th International Conference on Nanochannels, Microchannels, and Minichannels
  • Volume 2: Heat Transfer in Multiphase Systems; Gas Turbine Heat Transfer; Manufacturing and Materials Processing; Heat Transfer in Electronic Equipment; Heat and Mass Transfer in Biotechnology; Heat Transfer Under Extreme Conditions; Computational Heat Transfer; Heat Transfer Visualization Gallery; General Papers on Heat Transfer; Multiphase Flow and Heat Transfer; Transport Phenomena in Manufacturing and Materials Processing
  • Washington, DC, USA, July 10–14, 2016
  • Conference Sponsors: Heat Transfer Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5033-6
  • Copyright © 2016 by ASME


The use of a tourniquet leads to nerve damage, even if applied for short periods of time. This damage can be minimized if the limb is cooled. Because of the low conductivities of human tissue, core limb cooling is slow unless the surface temperature is very cool. Subzero surface temperatures can lead to skin injury (i.e., frostbite). Ideally one would adjust the limb surface temperatures as a function of time to maximize the cooling rate while avoiding permanent tissue damage. One possible approach is to use a thermoelectric cooler (TEC) in conjunction with a programmable power supply. TEC performance varies strongly with heat absorption rate, a function of limb thermal properties, and hot side temperatures that are strongly affected by the surface conditions on the hot side, i.e., overall heat transfer coefficients and ambient conditions.

The paper describes the use of finite element simulation to predict the usefulness of using thermoelectric coolers applied to the surface of a limb when compared to the standard approach of using ice packs. Since the TEC performance is strongly influenced by its warm side thermal conditions, experimental results are presented for different ambient temperatures, free and forced convection, and evaporation of water from a wickable covering.

Copyright © 2016 by ASME



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