Comparison of methods used to measure the thickness of soft tissues and their influence on the evaluation of tensile stress

S.A. O'Leary, Barry Doyle, T.M. Mcgloughlin

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33 Citations (Scopus)


Measuring the physical dimensions of soft tissue is difficult due to its deformable nature. Such measurements are used to evaluate the tissue's mechanical properties. Imprecise measurements of the tissue's thickness can alter the assessment of tensile stress which may have significant clinical relevance when used as a diagnostic tool. The performance of routinely used measurement methods including a (i) vernier calipers, (ii) micrometer, (iii) thickness gauge, (iv) glass slide technique coupled with (i) and (ii) and a (v) laser displacement sensor were assessed by comparing them to a photogrammetric technique which was considered to be the measurement standard. All measurements were performed on two tissue types: porcine aorta and human intraluminal thrombus from an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) and results were compared against predetermined criteria whose limits represented a 10% change in experimentally derived tensile stress. The inter-rater and retest reliability of the vernier calipers, micrometer and thickness gauge were also investigated. The thickness gauge was shown to be the most reliable and could accurately measure the thickness of aortic tissue. The conditions of the criteria were not met by any instrument used to measure the thickness of the AAA intraluminal thrombus, however, the micrometer, which proved highly reliable, was considered the most suitable (effects on tensile stress: +14.7%). For both tissues the glass slide and laser techniques significantly over estimated the thickness measurement altering the tensile stress by up to -29.6%. This study highlights the effects of inaccurate measurements on the assessment of tensile stress and recommends a thickness gauge be used to measure structured tissue (aorta) and a micrometer for unstructured tissue (AAA intraluminal thrombus). © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1955-1960
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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