, Volume 297, Issue 5, pp 218-225
Date: 08 Oct 2005

Acute skin alterations following ultraviolet radiation investigated by optical coherence tomography and histology

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Abstract

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) appears to be a promising technique to study skin in vivo. As part of an exploratory study to investigate UV induced effects non-invasively we aimed to evaluate the kinetics of acute UVB- as well as UVA1 induced skin alterations by means of OCT, and to correlate the results obtained with routine histology. Twelve healthy subjects received daily 60 J/cm2 of UVA1 and 1.5 minimal erythema doses of UVB on their upper back over three consecutive days. One day (24 h) after the last UV exposure, OCT measurements and skin biopsies were performed in four subjects (day 1) on the centre of the irradiated sites and an adjacent non-irradiated control site. The same procedure was performed in four subjects 3 days and 6 days after irradiation, respectively. Prior to OCT assessment two waterproof marks were drawn on the centre of UVB and UVA1 exposed sites and the control site. The OCT scanner, SkinDex 300, was used in the RI1D measurement modus in order to investigate morphological features, epidermal thickness, and scattering coefficients. Immediately after OCT assessment, 4 mm punch biopsies were taken from the previously marked sites. OCT as well as histological examinations performed on day 1, 3, and 6, revealed markedly higher values for epidermal thickness on UVB exposed skin sites, and slightly increased epidermal thickening in UVA1 exposed sites. UVB exposed sites showed disruption of the entrance signal in the B-scan of OCT resulting in a thickened layer with a signal-poor centre corresponding to hyperkeratosis and parakeratosis as confirmed by routine histology. Surprisingly, the mean scattering coefficients of the epidermis were slightly lower on UVA1 exposed sites, as compared to non-irradiated skin. By contrast, the scattering coefficient of the upper dermis of UVA1 irradiated skin was hardly altered. Moreover, the scattering coefficient of the upper dermis assessed on UVB exposed skin on day 1 was clearly smaller than the scattering coefficient observed on non-irradiated and UVA1 exposed skin. Conclusively, it was possible to demonstrate by means of OCT differences of epidermal thickness and pathological features of the stratum corneum following UV exposure. UVA1 induced epidermal pigmentation as well as UVB induced dermal inflammation may affect the light attenuation in the tissue indicated by a decrease of the scattering coefficient. OCT seems to be a useful tool to monitor UV induced effects in vivo.