Perfusion and oxygenation are critical parameters of muscle metabolism in health and disease. They have been both the target of many studies, in particular using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). However, difficulties with quantifying NIRS signals have limited a wide dissemination of the method to the clinics. Our aim was to investigate whether clinical multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT) could enable the label-free imaging of muscle perfusion and oxygenation under clinically relevant challenges: the arterial and venous occlusion. We employed a hybrid clinical MSOT/ultrasound system equipped with a hand-held scanning probe to visualize hemodynamic and oxygenation changes in skeletal muscle under arterial and venous occlusions. Four (N = 4) healthy volunteers were scanned over the forearm for both 3-minute occlusion challenges. MSOT-recorded pathophysiologically expected results during tests of disturbed blood flow with high resolution and without the need for contrast agents. During arterial occlusion, MSOT-extracted Hb-values showed an increase, while HbO2 – and total blood volume (TBV)-values remained roughly steady, followed by a discrete increase during the hyperemic period after cuff deflation. During venous occlusion, results showed a clear increase in intramuscular HbO2 , Hb and TBV within the segmented muscle area. MSOT was found to be capable of label-free non-invasive imaging of muscle hemodynamics and oxygenation under arterial and venous occlusion. We introduce herein MSOT as a novel modality for the assessment of vascular disorders characterized by disturbed blood flow, such as acute limb ischemia and venous thrombosis.

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