(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – Noninvasive optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging allow noninvasive mapping of complex microvascular networks in skin, and might become useful in diagnosing and monitoring skin cancer, according to a study published in Biomedical Optics Express.

“We demonstrate noninvasive structural and microvascular contrast imaging of different human skin diseases in vivo using an intensity difference analysis of OCT tomograms,” reported senior author Rainer A. Leitgeb, PhD, of the Center of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering at the Medical University Vienna in Austria, and coauthors.

The modality’s high speed minimizes motion artifacts that can compromise image quality, the authors noted.

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High-resolution OCT imaging has been used by ophthalmologists for over a decade to examine the microvasculature of patients’ eyes. The authors of the new study pilot-tested OCT to examine healthy skin and skin affected by allergy-associated eczema, dermatitis, and basal cell carcinoma. Eczema, dermatitis, and basal cell carcinoma all exhibited aberrant microvascular blood supplies. The pilot study examined the microvasculature of only two basal cell carcinoma skin tumors, but the tumors’ disorganized, dense vasculature stood out as clearly abnormal, the authors reported.

“The lesions show characteristic vascular patterns that are significantly different from healthy skin,” the authors reported. “In case of inflammation, vessels are dilated and perfusion is increased. In case of basal cell carcinoma, the angiogram shows a denser network of unorganized vessels with large vessels close to the skin surface.”

The results suggest that OCT microvascular imaging might provide “complementary information with important insight into the metabolic demand,” the authors noted.

The “density, integrity, and branching structure of the visualized vascular system may be valuable parameters to grade the stage of diseases, to monitor treatment progression, guide biopsies, and to uniquely give insight into the metabolic demand of the tissue,” they wrote. “This imaging technique could also be used to assess the stage of the disease not only qualitatively but also quantitatively. Analysis on vessel density or the fractal dimension of the vascular tree can potentially give more precise information about the severity and progression of disease.”