An experimental study on the ultimate strength of the adventitia and media of human atherosclerotic carotid arteries in circumferential and axial directions.
Atherosclerotic plaque may rupture without warning causing heart attack or stroke. Knowledge of the ultimate strength of human atherosclerotic tissues is essential for understanding the rupture mechanism and predicting cardiovascular events. Despite its great importance, experimental data on ultimate strength of human atherosclerotic carotid artery remains very sparse. This study determined the uniaxial tensile strength of human carotid artery sections containing type II and III lesions (AHA classifications). Axial and circumferential oriented adventitia, media and intact specimens (total=73) were prepared from 6 arteries. The ultimate strength in uniaxial tension was taken as the peak stress recorded when the specimen showed the first evidence of failure and the extensibility was taken as the stretch ratio at failure. The mean adventitia strength values calculated using the first Piola-Kirchoff stress were 1996+/-867 and 1802+/-703 kPa in the axial and circumferential directions respectively, while the corresponding values for the media sections were 519+/-270 and 1230+/-533 kPa. The intact specimens showed ultimate strengths similar to media in circumferential direction but were twice as strong as the media in the axial direction. Results also indicated that adventitia, media and intact specimens exhibited similar extensibility at failure, in both the axial and circumferential directions (stretch ratio 1.50+/-0.22). These measurements of the material strength limits for human atherosclerotic carotid arteries could be useful in improving computational models that assess plaque vulnerability.