Continuous monitoring of interstitial tissue oxygen using subcutaneous oxygen microsensors: In vivo characterization in healthy volunteers

Microvasc Res. 2019 Jul;124:6-18. doi: 10.1016/j.mvr.2019.02.002. Epub 2019 Feb 8.


Measurements of regional tissue oxygen serve as a proxy to monitor local perfusion and have the potential to guide therapeutic decisions in multiple clinical disciplines. Transcutaneous oximetry (tcpO2) is a commercially available noninvasive technique that uses an electrode to warm underlying skin tissue and measure the resulting oxygen tension at the skin surface. A novel approach is to directly measure interstitial tissue oxygen using subcutaneous oxygen microsensors composed of a biocompatible hydrogel carrier platform with embedded oxygen sensing molecules. After initial injection of the hydrogel into subcutaneous tissue, noninvasive optical measurements of phosphorescence-based emissions at the skin surface are used to sense oxygen in the subcutaneous interstitial space. The object of the present study was to characterize the in vivo performance of subcutaneous microsensors and compare with transcutaneous oximetry (tcpO2). Vascular occlusion tests were performed on the arms of 7 healthy volunteers, with repeated tests occurring 1 to 10 weeks after sensor injection, yielding 95 total tests for analysis. Comparative analysis characterized the response of both devices to decreases in tissue oxygen during occlusion and to increases in tissue oxygen following release of the occlusion. Results indicated: (I) time traces returned by microsensors and tcpO2 were highly correlated, with the median (interquartile range) correlation coefficient of r = 0.93 (0.10); (II) both microsensors and tcpO2 sensed a statistically significant decrease in normalized oxygen during occlusion (p < 0.001 for each device); (III) microsensors detected faster rates change (p < 0.001) and detected overshoot during recovery more frequently (38% vs. 4% of tests); (IV) inter-measurement analysis showed no correlation of baseline values between microsensors and tcpO2 (r = 0.03), but comparison of integrated oxygen dynamics showed similar variation in the normalized response to occlusion between devices (p = 0.06), (V) intra-measurement analysis revealed that microsensors detect greater physiological fluctuations than tcpO2 (p < 0.001) and may provide enhanced sensitivity to processes such as vasomotion. Additionally, the functional response of microsensors was not significantly different across time groupings (per month) post-injection (p = 0.61). Although the compared devices have differences in the mechanisms used to sense oxygen, these findings demonstrate that subcutaneous oxygen microsensors measure changes in interstitial tissue oxygen in human subjects in vivo.

Keywords: Medical device; Microcirculation; Perfusion monitoring; Subcutaneous oxygen microsensors; Transcutaneous tissue oximetry; Vascular occlusion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arteries / physiology
  • Biosensing Techniques / instrumentation*
  • Blood Gas Monitoring, Transcutaneous / instrumentation*
  • Blood Gas Monitoring, Transcutaneous / methods
  • Equipment Design
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Miniaturization
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Subcutaneous Tissue / metabolism*
  • Transducers*
  • Upper Extremity / blood supply*


  • Oxygen