The uterosacral ligament (USL) is a major suspensory structure of the female pelvic floor, providing support to the cervix and/or upper vagina. It plays a pivotal role in surgical procedures for pelvic organ prolapse (POP) aimed at restoring apical support. Despite its important mechanical function, little is known about the mechanical properties of the USL due to the constraints associated with in vivo testing of human USL and the lack of validated large animal models that enable such investigations. In this study, we provide the first comparison of the mechanical properties of swine and human USLs. Preconditioning and pre-creep data up to a 2 N load and creep data under a 2 N load over 1200 s were obtained on swine (n = 9) and human (n = 9) USL specimens by performing planar equi-biaxial tensile tests and using the digital image correlation method. No differences in the peak strain during preconditioning tests, secant modulus of the pre-creep response, and strain at the end of creep tests were detected in the USLs from the two species along both axial loading directions (the main in vivo loading direction and the direction that is perpendicular to it). These findings suggest that the swine holds promise as large animal model for studying the mechanical role of the USL in apical vaginal support and treatment of POP.
Keywords: Biaxial testing; Digital image correlation; Elasticity; Uterosacral ligament; Viscoelasticity.