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J Biomech. 2009 Dec 11;42(16):2654-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2009.08.018. Epub 2009 Sep 18.

Biomechanical and histological characteristics of passive esophagus: experimental investigation and comparative constitutive modeling.

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  • 1Laboratory of Biomechanics, Center for Experimental Surgery, Foundation of Biomedical Research, Academy of Athens, Athens, Greece.


Information on the passive biomechanical properties of two-layered esophagus is still limited, although this would enhance our understanding of its physiology/pathophysiology and help to address problems in surgery, medical-device applications, and for the optimal design of prostheses. In this study, rabbit esophagi were excised and dissected into mucosa-submucosa and muscle layers that were submitted to histological quantification of elastin and collagen content and orientation, as well as to inflation-extension testing and geometrical analysis, i.e. delineation of the zero-stress state serving as a reference configuration for biomechanical analysis. The pressure-radius data of both layers displayed a monotonically rising slope with inflating pressure, unlike the sigma shape characterizing elastin-rich tissues, for which biphasic constitutive models were initially postulated. Three phenomenological expressions of strain-energy function (SEF), commonly appearing in soft-tissue biomechanics literature, were used in an attempt to model the pseudoelastic response of esophageal tissue, namely the exponential Fung-type SEF, and the combined neo-Hookean (isotropic) or quadratic (anisotropic) and exponential Fung-type SEF. Accurate fits were attained for the pressure-radius-force data, spanning a wide range of longitudinal stretch ratios, when using the exponential form; the biphasic SEFs failed to generate improved fits, being also over-parameterized. According to the calculated material parameters, mucosa-submucosa was stiffer than muscle in both directions, justified by our histological observation of increased collagen content in that layer, and tissue was stiffer longitudinally, substantiated by the increased elastin and collagen contents and their preferential alignment towards that direction. Our results demonstrate that the passive response of esophagus is best modeled with an exponential Fung-type SEF.

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