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Annals of biomedical engineering

Nondestructive evaluation of hydrogel mechanical properties using ultrasound.


PMID 21773854

Abstract

The feasibility of using ultrasound technology as a noninvasive, nondestructive method for evaluating the mechanical properties of engineered weight-bearing tissues was evaluated. A fixture was designed to accurately and reproducibly position the ultrasound transducer normal to the test sample surface. Agarose hydrogels were used as phantoms for cartilage to explore the feasibility of establishing correlations between ultrasound measurements and commonly used mechanical tissue assessments. The hydrogels were fabricated in 1-10% concentrations with a 2-10 mm thickness. For each concentration and thickness, six samples were created, for a total of 216 gel samples. Speed of sound was determined from the time difference between peak reflections and the known height of each sample. Modulus was computed from the speed of sound using elastic and poroelastic models. All ultrasonic measurements were made using a 15 MHz ultrasound transducer. The elastic modulus was also determined for each sample from a mechanical unconfined compression test. Analytical comparison and statistical analysis of ultrasound and mechanical testing data was carried out. A correlation between estimates of compressive modulus from ultrasonic and mechanical measurements was found, but the correlation depended on the model used to estimate the modulus from ultrasonic measurements. A stronger correlation with mechanical measurements was found using the poroelastic rather than the elastic model. Results from this preliminary testing will be used to guide further studies of native and engineered cartilage.

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