INTRODUCTION : Knowledge of the normal arterial diameter at a given anatomical point is the first step toward quantifying the severity of cardiovascular diseases. According to several studies, parameters such as weight, height, age and sex can explain morphometric variations in arterial anatomy that are observed in a population. Before the development of a reference database against which to compare the diameters of arteries in a variety of pathological conditions, the compatibility between embalmed body measurements and computed tomography (CT) measurements must first be established.
PURPOSE : The aim of this study was to compare embalmed body measurements and CT measurements at 19 different arterial sites to establish whether embalmed body measurements are a true reflection of a living population.
METHODS : A total of 154 embalmed bodies were randomly selected from the Department of Anatomy at the University of Pretoria and 36 embalmed bodies were randomly selected from the Department of Human Anatomy at the University of Limpopo, Medunsa Campus. Dissections were performed on the embalmed body sample and the arterial dimensions were measured with a mechanical dial-sliding caliper (accuracy of 0.01 mm). 30 CT images for each of the 19 arterial sites were retrospectively selected from the database of radiographic images at the Department of Radiology, Steve Biko Academic Hospital. Radiant, a Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) viewer was used to analyze the CT images. RESULTS : The only statistically significant differences between the embalmed body measurements and CT measurements were found in the left common carotid- and the left subclavian arteries. The null hypothesis of no statistically significant difference between the embalmed body and CT measurements was accepted since the P value indicated no significant difference for 87% of the measurements, the exception being the left common carotid- and the left subclavian arteries. CONCLUSIONS : With the exception of two measurements, measurements in embalmed bodies and living people are interchangeable and concerns regarding the effect of distortion and shrinkage are unfounded. Even small changes in arterial diameter greatly influence blood flow and blood pressure, which contribute to undesirable clinical outcomes such as aortic aneurysms and aortic dissections. This study completes the first step towards the development of a reference database against which to compare the diameters of arteries in a variety of pathological conditions in a South African population.