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Dermatology. 2008;217(1):14-20. doi: 10.1159/000118508. Epub 2008 Feb 29.

Morphology and epidermal thickness of normal skin imaged by optical coherence tomography.

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Department of Dermatology, Roskilde Hospital, University of Copenhagen, Roskilde, Denmark.



Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is an optical imaging technology with a potential in the non-invasive diagnosis of skin cancer. To identify skin pathologies using OCT, it is of prime importance to establish baseline morphological features of normal skin.


The aim of this study is to describe normal skin morphology using OCT and polarization-sensitive OCT (PS-OCT), which is a way of representing birefringent tissue such as collagen in OCT images. Anatomical locations in 20 healthy volunteers were imaged, and epidermal thickness (ET) was measured and compared to age, gender and skin colour.


OCT imaging is based on infrared light reflection/backscatter from tissue. PS-OCT detects birefringence of tissue. Imaging was performed in 12 skin regions. ET was calculated from the OCT images.


Normal skin has a layered structure. Layering is less pronounced in adults. In glabrous skin the stratum corneum is visible. Children had larger ET (p < 0.0001). Age had a negative correlation with ET (p < 0.05). No gender- or skin-type-related differences in ET were found.


This study contributes to understanding OCT and PS-OCT images of normal skin and indicates that OCT can be used for both the qualitative and quantitative assessment of skin.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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