Refinement of a thermal threshold probe to prevent burns

M. J. Dixon, P. M. Taylor*, L. C. Slingsby, J. C. Murrell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Thermal threshold testing is commonly used for pain research. The stimulus may cause burning and merits prevention. Thermal probe modifications hypothesized to reduce burning were evaluated for practicality and effect. Studies were conducted on two humans and eight cats. Unmodified probe 0 was tested on two humans and promising modifications were also evaluated on cats. Probe 1 incorporated rapid cooling after threshold was reached: probe 1a used a Peltier system and probe 1b used water cooling. Probe 2 released skin contact immediately after threshold. Probe 3 (developed in the light of evidence of ‘hot spots’ in probe 0) incorporated reduced thermal mass and even heating across the skin contact area. Human skin was heated to 48°C (6°C above threshold) and the resulting burn was evaluated using area of injury and a simple descriptive scale (SDS). Probe 1a cooled the skin but required further heat dissipation, excessive power, was not ‘fail-safe’ and was inappropriate for animal mounting. Probe 1b caused less damage than no cooling (27±13 and 38 ± 11mm2 respectively, P = 0.0266; median SDS 1.5 and 4 respectively, P=0.0317) but was cumbersome. Probe 2 was unwieldy and was not evaluated further. Probe 3 produced even heating without blistering in humans. With probe 3 in cats, after opioid treatment, thermal threshold reached cut-out (55°C) on 24 occasions, exceeded 50°C in a further 32 tests and exceeded 48°C in the remainder. No skin damage was evident immediately after testing and mild hyperaemia in three cats at 2–3 days resolved rapidly. Probe 3 appeared to be suitable for thermal threshold testing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-62
Number of pages9
JournalLaboratory Animals
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2015


  • Cat
  • Nociceptive threshold
  • Pain
  • Refinement
  • Thermal


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