Information on the state of edema is important for treating severe burn injuries, but a method for noninvasive real-time quantitative diagnosis of edema is not available. Thus, in vivo spatiotemporal characteristics of serum albumin, which would behave differently from water in burned tissue, are not fully understood. In this study, we used a photoacoustic (PA) imaging method to visualize depth distribution of albumin in a rat deep burn model, for which Evans blue was used as a nontoxic molecular probe. Water content in the tissue and urine volume were also measured for reference. We performed PA imaging of albumin in three regions in the rats, burn and nonburn regions and their boundary, and the imaging showed that albumin started to leak out of the vessels in the boundary and diffused within the burned tissue. Diffusion of albumin into the nonburn region, where water content was increased, was limited. In the burn and boundary regions, albumin-originating PA signal increased in two phases: immediately after making burns and from 24 to 72 h after burn. The second increase is attributable to the selective return of water to the vessels, resulting in increased concentration of albumin in extravascular tissue.
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