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J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2013 Aug;14(4):483-94. doi: 10.1007/s10162-013-0394-z. Epub 2013 May 15.

Full-field thickness distribution of human tympanic membrane obtained with optical coherence tomography.

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Laboratory of Biomedical Physics, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, Antwerp, Belgium.


The full-field thickness distribution, three-dimensional surface model and general morphological data of six human tympanic membranes are presented. Cross-sectional images were taken perpendicular through the membranes using a high-resolution optical coherence tomography setup. Five normal membranes and one membrane containing a pathological site are included in this study. The thickness varies strongly across each membrane, and a great deal of inter-specimen variability can be seen in the measurement results, though all membranes show similar features in their respective relative thickness distributions. Mean thickness values across the pars tensa ranged between 79 and 97 μm; all membranes were thinnest in the central region between umbo and annular ring (50-70 μm), and thickness increased steeply over a small distance to approximately 100-120 μm when moving from the central region either towards the peripheral rim of the pars tensa or towards the manubrium. Furthermore, a local thickening was noticed in the antero-inferior quadrant of the membranes, and a strong linear correlation was observed between inferior-posterior length and mean thickness of the membrane. These features were combined into a single three-dimensional model to form an averaged representation of the human tympanic membrane. 3D reconstruction of the pathological tympanic membrane shows a structural atrophy with retraction pocket in the inferior portion of the pars tensa. The change of form at the pathological site of the membrane corresponds well with the decreased thickness values that can be measured there.

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