Biomechanical and Histo-Structural Investigations of Human Abdominal Adipose Tissues: a Basis for Preoperative Simulations

Unknown Photograph of a prepared adipose tissue specimen inserted in a biaxial tensile device ready for biaxial tensile tests.

Unknown Photograph of a cube-shaped adipose tissue specimen inserted in a triaxial testing device and subjected to simple shear loading.

A considerable number of plastic surgery procedures relate to reconstructive surgery associated with complex soft tissue contour defects, mainly subcutaneous adipose tissue, in different anatomical regions arising from trauma, burn injuries, cancer resections or congenital deformities. The most appropriate surgical intervention necessary for reconstructing the contour defect is by use of equivalent soft tissues, resulting in optimal restoration of form and function. It includes autologous soft tissue transfer from the patient’s own healthy body regions to the affected anatomical area.

A preoperative simulation of the resulting soft tissue deformation is desirable to support the surgeon’s preoperative planning, and to potentially improve surgical outcomes. Promising results in the field of plastic and reconstructive surgery are apparent in breast and facial soft tissue simulation using the finite element method. Currently, the development of a constitutive model for adipose tissues, which could be implemented in multilayer numerical models for human soft tissue deformation simulation, is difficult because knowledge of the mechanical parameters of fat tissue is limited.

Therefore, this study aims to determine the multiaxial mechanical properties and the underlying microstructure of human abdominal adipose tissues. Human abdominal adipose tissue samples remaining from breast reconstruction surgeries or from abdominal plastic surgeries are mechanically investigated. Two types of mechanical tests are conducted: biaxial tensile and triaxial shear tests. Moreover, dynamic biaxial tensile and shear tests are performed in order to account for the viscous features of the adipose tissue. Additionally, the microstructure of the specimens is examined by histology.