Longitudinal histomechanical heterogeneity of the internal thoracic artery

J Mech Behav Biomed Mater. 2021 Apr:116:104314. doi: 10.1016/j.jmbbm.2021.104314. Epub 2021 Jan 9.


The internal thoracic artery (ITA) is the principal choice for coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) due to its mechanical compatibility, histological composition, anti-thrombogenic lumen, and single anastomotic junction. Originating at the subclavian artery, traversing the thoracic cavity, and terminating at the superior epigastric and musculophrenic bifurcation, bilateral ITAs follow a protracted circuitous pathway. The physiological hemodynamics, anatomical configuration, and perivascular changes that occur throughout this length influence the tissue's microstructure and gross mechanical properties. Since histomechanics play a major role in premature graft failure we used inflation-extension testing to quantify the regional material and biaxial mechanical properties at four distinct locations along the left (L) and right (R) ITA and fit the results to a structurally-motivated constitutive model. Our comparative analysis of 44 vessel segments revealed a significant increase in the amount of collagen but not smooth muscle and a significant decrease in elastin and elastic lamellae present with distance from the heart. A subsequent decrease in the total deformation energy and isotropic contribution to the strain energy was present in the LITA but not RITA. Circumferential stress and compliance generally decreased along the length of the LITA while axial stress increased in the RITA. When comparing RITAs to LITAs, some morphological and histological differences were found in proximal sections while distal sections revealed differences predominantly in compliance and axial stress. Overall, this information can be used to better guide graft selection, graft preparation, and xenograft-based tissue-engineering strategies for CABG.

Keywords: Bypass grafting; Internal mammary; Porcine xenograft; Vascular mechanics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Coronary Artery Bypass
  • Heart
  • Internal Mammary-Coronary Artery Anastomosis
  • Mammary Arteries*