Background: Ice is applied following a soft-tissue injury on the basis of clinical information. This study investigates the relationship between ice therapy (cryotherapy) and edema by determining microvascular permeability before and after contusion with and without ice therapy and provides data supporting a reduction in edema following cryotherapy.
Methods: A dorsal microvascular chamber was created in rats to allow the direct examination of microvascular parameters in intact, pre-established microvascular beds of the cutaneous maximus muscle in conscious rats. The rats received a contusion or sham contusion and were treated with cryotherapy or were not treated. Microvascular permeability (edema) was assessed by measuring fluorescent-labeled albumin in the interstitial fluid before and after contusion.
Results: Microvascular permeability following contusion was significantly increased in the group that received the contusion without cryotherapy compared with that in the group that received the sham contusion without cryotherapy (control) (p < 0.001). When ice was applied fifteen minutes after the contusion for twenty minutes, microvascular permeability (edema) decreased significantly (p < 0.001) compared with that in the group that did not receive cryotherapy after contusion. Permeability was increased in the group that received cryotherapy following the contusion compared with that in the control group (p = 0.012), although the increase was not as great as that between the group that received the contusion without cryotherapy and the control group. Sham contusion with cryotherapy significantly reduced microvascular permeability compared with that in the control group (p = 0.004). Sham contusion without cryotherapy did not cause a significant change in the microvascular permeability of postcapillary venules after 300 minutes compared with baseline measurements.
Conclusions: The application of ice significantly decreased microvascular permeability following striated muscle contusion. The results of this study demonstrated that microvascular permeability is increased following a contusion coincident with significant leukocyte-endothelial interactions. However, microvascular permeability was significantly reduced following cryotherapy, a treatment demonstrated to reduce the number of rolling and adherent leukocytes. This association suggests that the reduction in edema in injured skeletal muscle following cryotherapy may be due to a reduction in leukocyte-endothelial interactions.
Clinical Relevance: This study provides scientific data to support the clinical observation that ice reduces edema.