Optical coherence tomography of the human skin

J. Welzel*, E. Lankenau, R. Birngruber, R. Engelhardt

*Corresponding author for this work
355 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a new diagnostic method for tissue characterization. Objective: We investigated normal and pathologic structures in human skin in several locations to evaluate the potential application of this technique to dermatology. Methods: Based on the principle of low-coherence interferometry, cross-sectional images of the human skin can be obtained in vivo with a high spatial resolution of about 15 μm. Within a penetration depth of 0.5 to 1.5 mm, structures of the stratum corneum, the living epidermis, and the papillary dermis can be distinguished. Results: Different layers could be detected that were differentiated by induction of experimental blisters and by comparison with corresponding histologic sections. Furthermore, OCT images of several skin diseases and tumors were obtained. Conclusion: OCT is a promising new imaging method for visualization of morphologic changes of superficial layers of the human skin. It may be useful for noninvasive diagnosis of bullous skin diseases, skin tumors, and in vivo investigation of pharmacologic effects.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Dermatology
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)958-963
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 1997

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Biomedical Engineering


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