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Vol. 37 No. 4, July/August 2000

Microstructural and mechanical characterization of human tissue at and adjacent to pressure ulcers

Laura E. Edsberg, PhD; Renee Cutway, PT; Shirley Anain, MD; Joseph R. Natiella, DDS

Natural and Health Sciences Research Center, Daemen College, Amherst, NY 14226; Sisters of Charity Hospital, Buffalo, NY 14214; School of Dental Medicine, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY 14260

Abstract — This investigation evaluated the microstructural and mechanical properties of human skin at and adjacent to pressure ulcers (PUs). Healthy breast and leg tissue served as control tissue. The tissue was characterized through uniaxial tensile testing and histomorphometric analysis. The PU tissue had significantly fewer straight and wavy fibers, but the fibers present were significantly wider and longer than those found in the healthy control tissue. PU ulcer tissue tested in tension had significantly lower strains at peak stress, versus the control breast tissue. Tissue at and adjacent to PUs has undergone significant adaptation or remodeling, as a result of the pressure sustained by the tissue.

Key words: collagen, decubitus ulcer, microstructure, pressure, pressure ulcer, skin, strain, stress

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