A technique is described for the quantitative assessment of peripheral nociceptive C fibre function by measurement of the axon reflex flare. Acetylcholine, introduced by electrophoresis, is used to stimulate a ring of nociceptive C fibre endings at the centre of which the increase in blood flow is measured with a laser Doppler flowmeter. This flare (neurogenic vasodilatation) has been compared with mechanically or chemically stimulated non-neurogenic cutaneous vasodilation. The flare is abolished by local anaesthetic and is absent in denervated skin. The flare has been measured on the sole of the foot of 96 healthy subjects; its size decreases with age in males, but not in females.
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