Robustness of tissue oxygenation estimates by continuous wave space-resolved near infrared spectroscopy


Significance Continuous wave near infrared spectroscopy (CW-NIRS) is widely exploited in clinics to estimate skeletal muscles and brain cortex oxygenation. Spatially resolved spectroscopy (SRS) is generally implemented in commercial devices. However, SRS suffers from two main limitations: the a priori assumption on the spectral dependence of the reduced scattering coefficient [ μ ′ s ( λ ) ] and the modeling of tissue as homogeneous. Aim We studied the accuracy and robustness of SRS NIRS. We investigated the errors in retrieving hemodynamic parameters, in particular tissue oxygen saturation (StO2), when μ ′ s ( λ ) was varied from expected values, and when layered tissue was considered. Approach We simulated hemodynamic variations mimicking real-life scenarios for skeletal muscles. Simulations were performed by exploiting the analytical solutions of the photon diffusion equation in different geometries: (1) semi-infinite homogeneous medium and constant μ ′ s ( λ ) ; (2) semi-infinite homogeneous medium and linear changes in μ ′ s ( λ ) ; (3) two-layered media with a superficial thickness s1 = 5, 7.5, 10 mm and constant μ ′ s ( λ ) . All simulated data were obtained at source-detector distances ρ = 35, 40, 45 mm, and analyzed with the SRS approach to derive hemodynamic parameters (concentration of oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin, total hemoglobin concentration, and tissue oxygen saturation, StO2) and their relative error. Results Variations in μ ′ s ( λ ) affect the estimated StO2 (up to ±10 % ), especially if changes are different at the two wavelengths. However, the main limitation of the SRS method is the presence of a superficial layer: errors strongly larger than 20% were retrieved for the estimated StO2 when the superficial thickness exceeds 5 mm. Conclusions These results highlight the need for more sophisticated strategies (e.g., the use of multiple short and long distances) to reduce the influence of superficial tissues in retrieving hemodynamic parameters and warn the SRS users to be aware of the intrinsic limitation of this approach, particularly when exploited in the clinical environment.

Journal of Biomedical Optics