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Challenging the in-vivo assessment of biomechanical properties of the uterine cervix: A critical analysis of ultrasound based quasi-static procedures


Maurer, M M; Badir, S; Pensalfini, M; Bajka, M; Abitabile, P; Zimmermann, R; Mazza, E (2015). Challenging the in-vivo assessment of biomechanical properties of the uterine cervix: A critical analysis of ultrasound based quasi-static procedures. Journal of Biomechanics, 48(9):1541-1548.

Abstract

Measuring the stiffness of the uterine cervix might be useful in the prediction of preterm delivery, a still unsolved health issue of global dimensions. Recently, a number of clinical studies have addressed this topic, proposing quantitative methods for the assessment of the mechanical properties of the cervix. Quasi-static elastography, maximum compressibility using ultrasound and aspiration tests have been applied for this purpose. The results obtained with the different methods seem to provide contradictory information about the physiologic development of cervical stiffness during pregnancy. Simulations and experiments were performed in order to rationalize the findings obtained with ultrasound based, quasi-static procedures. The experimental and computational results clearly illustrate that standardization of quasi-static elastography leads to repeatable strain values, but for different loading forces. Since force cannot be controlled, this current approach does not allow the distinction between a globally soft and stiff cervix. It is further shown that introducing a reference elastomer into the elastography measurement might overcome the problem of force standardization, but a careful mechanical analysis is required to obtain reliable stiffness values for cervical tissue. In contrast, the maximum compressibility procedure leads to a repeatable, semi-quantitative assessment of cervical consistency, due to the nonlinear nature of the mechanical behavior of cervical tissue. The evolution of cervical stiffness in pregnancy obtained with this procedure is in line with data from aspiration tests.

Abstract

Measuring the stiffness of the uterine cervix might be useful in the prediction of preterm delivery, a still unsolved health issue of global dimensions. Recently, a number of clinical studies have addressed this topic, proposing quantitative methods for the assessment of the mechanical properties of the cervix. Quasi-static elastography, maximum compressibility using ultrasound and aspiration tests have been applied for this purpose. The results obtained with the different methods seem to provide contradictory information about the physiologic development of cervical stiffness during pregnancy. Simulations and experiments were performed in order to rationalize the findings obtained with ultrasound based, quasi-static procedures. The experimental and computational results clearly illustrate that standardization of quasi-static elastography leads to repeatable strain values, but for different loading forces. Since force cannot be controlled, this current approach does not allow the distinction between a globally soft and stiff cervix. It is further shown that introducing a reference elastomer into the elastography measurement might overcome the problem of force standardization, but a careful mechanical analysis is required to obtain reliable stiffness values for cervical tissue. In contrast, the maximum compressibility procedure leads to a repeatable, semi-quantitative assessment of cervical consistency, due to the nonlinear nature of the mechanical behavior of cervical tissue. The evolution of cervical stiffness in pregnancy obtained with this procedure is in line with data from aspiration tests.

Citations

3 citations in Web of Science®
4 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Obstetrics
04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Gynecology
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:25 June 2015
Deposited On:05 Feb 2016 14:27
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 19:59
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0021-9290
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbiomech.2015.02.038
PubMed ID:25791058

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