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Abstract :

Arterio-venous anastomoses (AVAs) are direct connections between small arteries and small veins. In humans they are numerous in the glabrous skin of the hands and feet. The AVAs are short vessel segments with a large inner diameter and a very thick muscular wall. They are densely innervated by adrenergic axons. When they are open, they provide a low-resistance connection between arteries and veins, shunting blood directly into the venous plexuses of the limbs. The AVAs play an important role in temperature regulation in humans in their thermoneutral zone, which for a naked resting human is about 26C to 36C, but lower when active and clothed. From the temperature control center in the hypothalamus, bursts of nerve impulses are sent simultaneously to all AVAs. The AVAs are all closed near the lower end and all open near the upper end of the thermoneutral zone. The small veins in the skin of the arms and legs are also contracted near the lower end of the thermoneutral zone and relax to a wider cross section as the ambient temperature rises. At the cold end of the thermoneutral range, the blood returns to the heart through the deep veins and cools the arterial blood through a countercurrent mechanism. As the ambient temperature rises, more blood is returned through the superficial venous plexuses and veins and heats the skin surface of the full length of the 4 limbs. This skin surface is responsible for a large part of the loss of heat from the body toward the upper end of the thermoneutral zone