Thermal spread (thermal tissue damage) results from heat conduction through the tissues immediately adjacent to a hyperthermic tissue sealing device. The extent of such heat conduction can be assessed by the detection of adventitial collagen denaturation. Several histologic methods have been reported to measure adventitial collagen denaturation as a marker of thermal spread. This study compared hematoxylin and eosin staining, Gomori trichrome staining and loss of collagen birefringence for the detection of collagen denaturation. Twenty-eight ex vivo porcine carotid arteries were sealed with a commercially available, FDA-approved tissue sealing device. Following formalin fixation and paraffin embedding, two 5-micron tissue sections were hematoxylin and eosin and Gomori trichrome stained. The hematoxylin and eosin-stained section was evaluated by routine bright field microscopy and under polarized light. The trichromestained section was evaluated by routine bright field microscopy. Radial and midline adventitial collagen denaturation measurements were made for both the top and bottom jaw sides of each seal. The adventitial collagen denaturation lengths were determined using these three methods and statistically compared. The results showed that thermal spread, as represented by histologically detected collagen denaturation, is technique dependent. In this study, the trichrome staining method detected significantly less thermal spread than the hematoxylin and eosin staining and birefringence methods. Of the three methods, hematoxylin and eosin staining provided the most representative results for true thermal spread along the adjacent artery.