A Probe Technique for Determining the Thermal Conductivity of Tissue

[+] Author and Article Information
T. E. Cooper

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Calif.

G. J. Trezek

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Thermal Systems Division, University of California, Berkeley, Calif.

J. Heat Transfer 94(2), 133-140 (May 01, 1972) (8 pages) doi:10.1115/1.3449883 History: Received August 17, 1970; Revised April 05, 1971; Online August 11, 2010


A small needle-like probe has been developed for the determination of the thermal conductivity of either in-vitro or in-vivo tissue. This probe consists of a copper cylinder having a diameter of 1.5 mm and a length of 22.5 mm. Constantan and copper leads are attached to the center and top of the cylinder, respectively, and as a consequence the probe acts as a thermocouple. The distinguishing characteristic of this probe is that when it is suddenly embedded into a medium at a different temperature, the duration of its temperature–time response is such that it can be related to the thermal properties of the medium. This is accomplished by a match with an analytically determined response curve which accounts for metabolic heat generation, blood flow, and conductive effects. By nondimensionalizing the governing equations for the probe–tissue system, three nondimensional groups for time, temperature, and blood flow emerge. The results of a parametric study of these effects are presented in tabular form. Initially, the probe technique was used to determine the thermal conductivity of a 1 percent agar–water mixture and the results were within 5 percent of water. Subsequently, experimental thermal-conductivity data were obtained on the following in-vitro human organs: liver, kidney, heart, spleen, whole brain, brain gray matter, and brain white matter. In addition, density, specific-heat, and water-content measurements were also obtained on these organs. In-vivo conductivity data have recently been obtained for canine liver with and without blood flow. These data indicate that the in-vivo value without blood flow is approximately the same as the in-vitro value after the organ had been removed and refrigerated for 24 hr. Blood flow, if not considered, resulted in apparent conductivities which were 15 to 25 percent higher than that of the tissue.

Copyright © 1972 by ASME
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