Featured Researcher

Hassan Arbab, PhD

Research Associate



Washington Research Foundation


Saman Arbabi, MD, MPH, FACS

Professor of Surgery

Harborview Medical Center

Tam Ngoc Pham, MD

Associate Professor of Surgery

Harborview Medical Center

UW Medicine Regional Burn Center at Harborview

New Imaging Technique to Assess Burn Injuries

Terahertz Spectroscopy Methods Improve Diagnostics

The clinical problem we are trying to solve is to improve the accuracy rate of burn diagnostics.

Terahertz imaging is senstive to the water content of the tissue... and skin structures such as hair follicles and sweat glands. The more of these that survive the injury, the more likely the wound will heal.

More About This Research

The terahertz part of the electromagnetic spectrum, known as the so-called 'THz gap,' is usually defined by the frequencies between 100 GHz and 10 THz (wavelengths from 3 mm to 30 μm). The high absorption of terahertz radiation by both bound and free water molecules provides a sensitive signal contrast for imaging applications. Water content is increased in burned tissue due to the formation of interstitial edema. Furthermore, we have found that the sensitivity of THz waves to the postburn reduction in the number and size of discrete normal skin structures — such as microvasculature, sweat glands, and hair follicles — can be used as a source of signal contrast in THz burn imaging.

The clinical course of treatment is different for burns of differing severity. Third-degree injuries cannot heal without surgical and skin grafting procedures. Some second-degree wounds may recovery over a 2- to 3-week period after the burn, but some may develop to a full-thickness state because an insufficient number of microvascular and epithlium generation structures survive the injury. Our terahertz spectroscopy methods may ultimately be used to improve the differentiation of partial-thickness burns that will heal naturally from those that will require surgical intervention.


Characterization of burn injuries using terahertz time-domain spectroscopy

Arbab, M.H., T.C. Dickey, D.P. Winebrenner, A. Chen, and P.D. Mourad, "Characterization of burn injuries using terahertz time-domain spectroscopy," Proc. SPIE, 7890, 78900Q, doi:10.1117/12.876229, 2011.

More Info

10 Feb 2011

The accuracy rates of the clinical assessment techniques used in grading burn injuries remain significantly low for partial thickness burns. In this paper, we present experimental results from terahertz characterization of 2nd and 3rd degree burn wounds induced on a rat model. Reflection measurements were obtained from the surface of both burned and normal skin using pulsed terahertz spectroscopy. Signal processing techniques are described for interpretation of the acquired terahertz waveform and differentiation of burn wounds. Furthermore, the progression of burn injuries is shown by comparison between acute characterization and 72-hours survival studies. While the water content of healthy and desiccated skin has been considered as a source of terahertz signal contrast, it is demonstrated that other biological effects such as formation of post-burn interstitial edema as well as the density of the discrete scattering structures in the skin (such as hair follicles, sweat glands, etc.) play a significant role in the terahertz response of the burn wounds.

Invention Disclosures to UW C4C

Method for Characterization of Superficial Wounds

Record of Invention Number: 45573

1 Apr 2011

Retrieval of Terahertz Spectroscopic Information in the Presence of the Rough Surface Scattering Effects

Record of Invention Number: 8575D

20 Jan 2010