The objective of this study was to develop a method based on polarization-sensitive optical coherent tomography (PSOCT) for the imaging and quantification of degenerative changes associated with Achilles tendon rupture. Ex vivo PSOCT examinations were performed in 24 patients. The study involved samples from 14 ruptured Achilles tendons, 4 tendinopathic Achilles tendons and 6 patellar tendons (collected during total knee replacement) as non-ruptured controls. The samples were imaged in both intensity and phase retardation modes within 24 h after surgery, and birefringence was quantified. The samples were fixed and processed for histology immediately after imaging. Slides were assessed twice in a blind manner to provide a semi-quantitative histological score of degeneration. In-depth micro structural imaging was demonstrated. Collagen disorganization and high cellularity were observable by PSOCT as the main markers associated with pathological features. Quantitative assessment of birefringence and penetration depth found significant differences between non-ruptured and ruptured tendons. Microstructure abnormalities were observed in the microstructure of two out of four tendinopathic samples. PSOCT has the potential to explore in situ and in-depth pathological change associated with Achilles tendon rupture, and could help to delineate abnormalities in tendinopathic samples in vivo.
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