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Ice Water Immersion Test for Raynaud's Syndrome

What is an ice water immersion test?

An Ice water immersion test is an examination performed when Raynaud’s Syndrome is suspected. The affected digits are placed into a basin of ice water until vasoconstriction occurs.  A thermal measurement of each digit at timed intervals will then be taken.  The amount of time for the digit’s temperature to return to normal is documented and confirms the presence of Raynaud’s.

What is Raynaud’s Syndrome?

Raynaud's phenomenon is an exaggeration of vasomotor responses to cold or emotional stress. More specifically, it is a hyperactivation of the sympathetic system causing extreme vasoconstriction of the peripheral blood vessels, leading to tissue hypoxia. Chronic, recurrent cases of Raynaud phenomenon can result in atrophy of the skin, subcutaneous tissues, and muscle. In rare cases it can cause ulceration and ischemic gangrene.[4]

What are the symptoms of Raynaud’s Syndrome?

The condition can cause pain within the affected extremities, discoloration (paleness) and sensations of cold and/or numbness. If someone with Raynaud's is placed in too cold a climate, it could potentially become dangerous.

The symptoms include several cyclic color changes:

  • When exposed to cold temperatures, the blood supply to the fingers or toes, and in some cases the nose or earlobes, is markedly reduced; the skin turns pale or white (called pallor), and becomes cold and numb.
  • When the oxygen supply is depleted, the skin colour turns blue (called cyanosis).
  • These events are episodic, and when the episode subsides or the area is warmed, the blood flow returns and the skin colour first turns red (rubor), and then back to normal, often accompanied by swelling, tingling, and a painful "pins and needles" sensation.

What can I expect during the exam?

A complete examination takes approximately 30 minutes.  A technologist will perform the test.  The digits to be tested will be immersed in ice water until vasoconstriction occurs. The extremity will then be removed from the ice water and a hand held digital thermometer will be place on each digit to record a temperature at timed intervals. This process will be repeated until temperatures return to normal.

Patient Instructions

  • Allow 30 minutes for the study
  • If fingers are to be examined – a short sleeve shirt is best
  • If toes are to be examined you will be asked to remove socks and shoes.
  • No additional preparation is needed for this procedure


Please call us with questions or to schedule an appointment.

Vascular Specialists of East Texas