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History-Dependent Deformations of Rat Vaginas under Inflation.

Abstract

The vagina is a highly inhomogeneous, anisotropic, and viscoelastic organ that undergoes significant deformations in vivo. The mechanical attributes of this organ facilitate important physiological functions during menstruation, intercourse, and birthing. Despite the crucial mechanical role that the vagina plays within the female reproductive system, the deformations that the organ can sustain over time under constant pressure, in both the longitudinal direction (LD) and circumferential direction (CD), have not been fully characterized. This experimental study focuses on quantifying the creep properties of the vagina via ex vivo inflation testing using the rat as animal model. Toward this end, rat vaginas were subjected to three consecutively increasing constant luminal pressures (28 kPa, 55 kPa, and 83 kPa) using a custom-built experimental setup and the resulting inhomogeneous deformations were measured using the digital image correlation (DIC) method. The vagina was found to deform significantly more in the CD than the LD at any constant pressure, suggesting that the organ primarily adapts to constant pressures by significantly changing the diameter rather that the length. The change in deformation over time (i.e., creep) was significantly higher during the 1st inflation test at a constant pressure of 28 kPa than over the 2nd and 3rd inflation tests at constant pressures of 55 kPa and 83 kPa, respectively. The findings of this study on the mechanical behavior of the vagina could serve to advance our limited knowledge about the physiology and pathophysiology of this important reproductive organ.

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