As the complete understanding of urinary bladder function requires knowledge of organ level deformations, we conducted ex vivo studies of surface strains of whole bladders during controlled filling. The surface strains derived from displacements of surface markers applied to the posterior surface of excised rat bladders were tracked under slow filling with pressure and volume simultaneously recorded in the passive and completely inactivated states (i.e. with and without smooth muscle tone, respectively). Bladders evaluated in the passive state exhibited spontaneous contractions and larger average peak pressures (16.7 mm Hg compared to 6.4 mm Hg in the inactive state). Overall, the bladders exhibited anisotropic deformations and were stiffer in the circumferential direction, with average peak stretch values of approximately 2.3 and approximately 1.9 in the longitudinal and circumferential directions, respectively, for both states. Although bladders in the passive state were stiffer, they had similar average peak areal stretches of 4.3 in both states. However, differences early in the filling process as a result of a loss in smooth muscle tone in the inactive state resulted in longitudinal lengthening of 36%. Idealizing the bladder as a prolate spheroid, we estimated the wall stress-strain relation during filling and demonstrated that the intact bladder exhibited the classic stress-stretch relation, with a significantly protracted low stress region and peak stresses of 36 and 51 kPa in the longitudinal and circumferential directions, respectively. The present study fills a major gap in the urinary bladder biomechanics literature, wherein knowledge of the pressure-volume-wall stress-wall strain relation was explored for the first time in a functioning organ ex vivo.
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