The application of fiber-coupled Raman probes for the discrimination of cancerous and normal skin has the advantage of a non-invasive in vivo application, easy clinical handling, and access to the majority of body sites, which would otherwise be limited by stationary Raman microscopes. Nevertheless, including optical fibers and miniaturizing optical components, as well as measuring in vivo, involves the sensibility to external perturbation factors that could introduce artifacts to the acquired Raman spectra and thereby potentially reduce classification performance. In this study, typical perturbation factors of Raman measurements with a Raman fiber probe, optimized for clinical in vivo discrimination of skin cancer, were investigated experimentally. Measurements were performed under standardized conditions in clinical settings in vivo on human skin, as well as ex vivo on porcine ears. Raman spectra were analyzed in the fingerprint region between 1150 and 1730 cm−1 using principal component analysis. The largest artifacts in the Raman spectra were found in measurements performed under the influence of strong ambient light conditions as well as after miscellaneous pre-treatments to the skin, such as use of a permanent marker or a sunscreen. Minor influences were also found in measurements using H2O immersion and when varying the probe contact force. The effect of reasonable variation of the fiber-bending radius was found to be of negligible impact. The influence of measurements on hairy or sun-exposed body sites, as well as inter-subject variation, was also investigated. The presented results may serve as a guide to avoid negative effects during the process of data acquisition and so avoid misclassification in tumor discrimination.
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