Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Member

Melinda Harman, PhD, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Jeremy Mercuri, PhD

Committee Member

B. Todd Heniford, MD


Abdominal wall hernias occur when a weakening in the muscle layer allows the protrusion of internal tissues. Hernia repair is a highly common surgical procedure with nearly one-million performed annually during which surgeons may implant surgical mesh to reinforce the weakened muscles and probe by hand to subjectively assess mesh fixation to the abdominal wall. Objective evaluation of mesh implantation relies on the mechanical characterization of the mesh-tissue composite, which is difficult in intra- operative settings. There is a need for tools capable of providing quantitative assessments of the mechanical behavior of mesh in situ. While several metrics exist for characterizing soft tissues, stiffness has been shown to be a parameter relevant to clinical outcome and development of new mesh materials. A novel minimally invasive surgical tool was developed for the mechanical characterization of mesh-tissue composites in terms of their stiffness. Preliminary testing revealed variation in stiffness measurements when a load was applied to the stiffness tool by a user during operation. Through work described in this thesis, the tool was further developed with additional instrumentation to effectively minimize the impact of user-load on stiffness measurement. Characterization of the mesh-tissue composite was accomplished using commercially-available mesh, abdominal wall tissue phantoms, and a custom benchtop simulator that mimics abdominal wall distension and exposes mesh materials to biaxial loading that is comparable to physiological loading conditions.



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