Our understanding of aortic biomechanics is customarily limited by lack of information on the axial residual stretches of the vessel in both humans and experimental animals that would facilitate the identification of its actual zero-stress state. The aim of this study was thus to acquire hitherto unreported quantitative knowledge of axial opening angle and residual stretches in different segments and quadrants of the human aorta according to age and gender. 23 aortas were harvested during autopsy from the aortic root to the iliac bifurcation and were divided into =12 segments and 4 quadrants. Morphometric measurements were taken in the excised/curled configuration of rectangular strips considered to be under zero-stress using image-analysis software to study the axial/circumferential variation of axial opening angle, internal/external residual stretch, and thickness of the aortic wall. The measured data demonstrated: (1) an axial opening angle peak at the arch branches, decreasing towards the ascending and to a near-constant value in the descending thoracic aorta, and increasing in the abdominal aorta; (2) the variation of residual stretches resembled that of opening angle, but axial differences in external residual stretch were more prominent; (3) wall thickness showed a progressive diminution along the vessel; (4) the highest opening angle/residual stretches were found in the inner quadrant and the lowest in the outer quadrant; (5) the anterior was the thinnest quadrant throughout the aorta; (6) age caused thickening but greatly reduced axial opening angle/residual stretches, without differences between males and females.

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