Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a devastating problem for people of all ages, but the nature of the response to such injury is often different in children than in adults. Cerebral vessel damage and dysfunction are common following TBI, but age-dependent, large-deformation vessel response has not been characterized. Our objective was to investigate the mechanical properties of cerebral arteries as a function of development. Sheep middle cerebral arteries from four age groups (fetal, newborn, juvenile, and adult) were subjected to biaxial loading around physiological conditions and then to failure in the axial direction. Results show little difference among age groups under physiological loading conditions, but response varied significantly with age in response to large axial deformation. Vessels from all age groups reached the same ultimate stretch level, but the amount of stress carried at a given level of stretch increased significantly with age through the developmental period (fetal to juvenile). Our results are the first to identify changes in cerebral vessel response to large deformations with age and may lead to new insights regarding differences in response to TBI with age.
Keywords: Blood vessel mechanical testing; Cerebral artery development; Large deformations; Traumatic brain injury; Vessel microstructure.