Mechanical characterization of full-thickness burned skin in incision and cutting experiments

Gallagher, Ava, Samara
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Panneerselvam, Karthik
Zhang, Lucy
De, Suvranu
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Mechanical engineering
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Patients with full-thickness circumferential burns may need to undergo a high-risk, urgent procedure known as escharotomy. Necrotic skin tissue, known as eschar, due to burn injury is incised to the subcutaneous fat layer to preserve surrounding healthy tissues and relieve pressure in the burn region. Medical personnel must be well-trained to perform this procedure, requiring the development of high-fidelity simulators with accurate haptic feedback. Such simulators require novel synthetic tissues engineered based on accurate mechanical properties of burned skin tissues. The mechanical behavior of skin tissue is known to significantly change with thermal injury.The goal of this thesis is to characterize the incision and cutting forces in full-thickness burned skin tissue. Porcine skin tissue is known to possess similar properties to human skin and is often used as a model for human tissue, as the usage of human tissue in experiments presents ethical and other concerns. Experiments were conducted on unburned and burned porcine skin tissues at rates relevant to the skin surgery, i.e., 2 mm/s and 8 mm/s. The rate dependent mechanical behavior of skin tissues was investigated along with the effect of thermal injury on the mechanical behavior of skin tissue at each cutting rate. The analysis was conducted using parameters obtained from the incision and cutting force profiles. The peak incision force and energy required to rupture the skin tissue were extracted from the incision force profile. The average cutting force and the energy required to cut the tissue were estimated from the cutting force profile for the initial and final 10 mm length of cut and also for the full length of cut. It is found that the cutting force of full-thickness burned porcine skin tissue is rate dependent, whereas the incision force is rate independent. The mechanical behavior of skin tissue under thermal injury is found to change significantly during the cutting experiments, consistent with observations in the literature.
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