Visualization of epidermal reservoir formation from topical diclofenac gels by Raman spectroscopy

Qihong Zhang, Carol R. Flach, Richard Mendelsohn, Leanne Page, Susan Whitson, Mila Boncheva Bettex

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This work investigated whether topical pain relief diclofenac gels can form a diclofenac reservoir in the epidermal and dermal layers of human skin. Methods: Excised human skin samples were treated with three topical diclofenac gels ex vivo and examined using Raman microscopy of transversally microtomed sections. The relative diclofenac concentration in the skin layers was calculated as the ratio of the integrated areas of bands characteristic of diclofenac (~445 cm−1) and skin (Amide I). A customized masking algorithm ensured that only diclofenac-specific signal was mapped in the resulting Raman images. Results: A heterogenous spatial distribution of diclofenac was clearly visible in both the epidermis and the dermis in all samples, with a markedly higher diclofenac relative content and number of pixels above the detection limit in the epidermis compared to the dermis. Conclusion: The Raman images evidenced that the studied topical gels deliver diclofenac through the stratum corneum skin barrier and form a drug depot localized in the epidermis. The data are in line with earlier clinical findings that this depot acts like a true reservoir and enables sustained drug release.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1621-1627
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pain Research
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


  • Diclofenac
  • Drug permeation
  • Epidermal reservoir
  • Raman microscopy
  • Skindepot
  • Topical pain relief


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