Three-dimensional study of the skin/subcutaneous complex using in vivo whole body 3T MRI: review of the literature and confirmation of a generic pattern of organization

Surg Radiol Anat. 2015 Sep;37(7):731-41. doi: 10.1007/s00276-014-1409-0. Epub 2015 Jan 1.


Purpose: With a view to developing a tool for predicting the behavior of soft tissues during plastic surgery procedures, we looked for the existence of homologies in the overall pattern of organization of the skin/subcutaneous tissue complex between various body parts, using high-resolution in vivo imaging methods and data available in the literature.

Methods: 3T MRI scanning sequences were performed using appropriate radiofrequency coils on the face, thorax, breast, abdomen and lower extremity of six healthy volunteers. The radiological findings were segmented and converted into volumetric data.

Results: The superficial and deep adipose tissue was found to be clearly separated by an intermediate layer called stratum membranosum or superficial fascia. This continuous layer covered all the anatomical parts of the body examined. It was found to have several components in the trunk and limbs and to form a continuous layer with the superficial muscular aponeurotic system in the face. A retaining connective network consisting of superficial and deep retinacula cutis detected in all the regions investigated sometimes formed more densely packed structures playing the role of skin ligaments.

Conclusion: The results of a 3T MRI study on subcutaneous tissue showed the existence of a common pattern of organization of the skin-subcutaneous tissue complex in the various parts of the body studied. This general model is subject to quantitative variations and tissue differentiation processes promoting the sliding or contractility of the supporting tissue. Three-dimensional reconstructions were obtained by post-processing the MRI images and will be used to perform pre-surgical simulations by settings a generic model that can be adapted to the different localization of the human body in a procedural way.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Skin / anatomy & histology*
  • Subcutaneous Tissue / anatomy & histology*
  • Young Adult