Mechanical & Materials Engineering, Department of


Date of this Version



J Surg Res. 2012 July ; 176(1): 329–336. doi:10.1016/j.jss.2011.09.058.


Copyright 2012 the authors. Used by permission.


Introduction—The mechanical environment and properties of the carotid artery play an important role in the formation and progression of atherosclerosis in the carotid bifurcation. The purpose of this work was to measure and compare the range and variation of circumferential stress and tangent elastic moduli in the human common (CCA), external (ECA) and internal (ICA) carotid arteries over the cardiac cycle in vivo.

Methods—Measurements were performed in the surgically exposed proximal cervical CCA, distal ECA and distal ICA of normotensive patients (n = 16) undergoing carotid endarterectomy. All measurements were completed in vivo over the cardiac cycle in the repaired carotid bifurcation after the atherosclerotic plaque was successfully removed. B-mode Duplex ultrasonography was used for measurement of arterial diameter and wall thickness, and an angiocatheter placed in the CCA was used for concurrent measurement of blood pressure. A semiautomatic segmentation algorithm was used to track changes in arterial diameter and wall thickness in response to blood pressure. These measurements were then used to calculate the variation of circumferential (hoop) stresses, tangent elastic moduli (the slope of the stress-strain curve at specified stresses), and stress-induced stiffness of the arterial wall (stiffening in response to intraluminal blood pressure fluctuation) for each patient.

Results—The diameter and wall thickness of the segments (CCA, ECA and ICA) of the carotid bifurcation were found to decrease and stress-induced stiffness to increase from proximal CCA to distal ECA and ICA. The circumferential stress from end-diastole (minimum pressure) to peaksystole (maximum pressure) varied nonlinearly from 25±7 to 63±23 kPa (CCA), from 22±7 to 57±19 kPa (ECA) and from 28±8 to 67±23 kPa (ICA). Tangent elastic moduli also varied nonlinearly from end-diastole to peak-systole as follows: from 0.40±0.25 to 1.50±2.05 MPa (CCA), from 0.49±0.34 to 1.14±0.52 MPa (ECA) and from 0.68±0.31 to 1.51±0.69 MPa (ICA). The stress-induced stiffness of CCA and ECA increased more than 3-fold and the stiffness of ICA increased more than 2.5-fold at peak-systole compared to end-diastole.

Conclusions—The in vivo mechanical behavior of the three segments of the carotid bifurcation was qualitatively similar, but quantitatively different. All three arteries – CCA, ECA and ICA – exhibited nonlinear variations of circumferential stress and tangent elastic moduli within the normal pressure range. The variability in the properties of the three segments of the carotid bifurcation indicates a need for development of carotid models that match the in vivo properties of the carotid segments. Finally, the observed nonlinear behavior of the artery points to the need for future vascular mechanical studies to evaluate the mechanical factors of the arterial wall over the entire cardiac cycle.