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Research Papers

J Biomech Eng. 2017;139(8):081002-081002-9. doi:10.1115/1.4036606.

Midurethral slings are used to correct urethral hypermobility in female stress urinary incontinence (SUI), defined as the complaint of involuntary urine leakage when the intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) is increased. Structural and thermal features influence their mechanical properties, which may explain postoperative complications, e.g., erosion and urethral obstruction. We studied the effect of the mesh stiffness on urethral mobility at Valsalva maneuver, under impairment of the supporting structures (levator ani and/or ligaments), by using a numerical model. For that purpose, we modeled a sling with “lower” versus “higher” stiffness and evaluated the mobility of the bladder and urethra, that of the urethrovesical junction (the α-angle), and the force exerted at the fixation of the sling. The effect of impaired levator ani or pubourethral ligaments (PUL) alone on the organs displacement and α-angle opening was similar, showing their important role together on urethral stabilization. When the levator ani and all the ligaments were simulated as impaired, the descent of the bladder and urethra went up to 25.02 mm, that of the bladder neck was 14.57 mm, and the α-angle was 129.7 deg, in the range of what was found in women with SUI. Both meshes allowed returning to normal positioning, although at the cost of higher force exerted by the mesh with higher stiffness (3.4 N against 2.3 N), which can relate to tissue erosion. This finite element analysis allowed mimicking the biomechanical response of the pelvic structures in response to changing a material property of the midurethral synthetic mesh.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J Biomech Eng. 2017;139(8):081003-081003-10. doi:10.1115/1.4036607.

We have proposed a long-term, noninvasive, nonrestrictive method of delivering and implanting a biosensor within the body via a swallowable implantation capsule robot (ICR). The design and preliminary validation of the ICR’s primary subsystem—the sensor deployment system—is discussed and evidence is provided for major design choices. The purpose of the sensor deployment system is to adhere a small biosensor to the mucosa of the intestine long-term, and the modality was inspired by tapeworms and other organisms that employ a strategy of mechanical adhesion to soft tissue via the combined use of hooks or needles and suckers. Testing was performed to refine the design of the suction and needle attachment as well as the sensor ejection features of the ICR. An experiment was conducted in which needle sharpness, needle length, and vacuum volume were varied, and no statistically significant difference was observed. Finally, preliminary testing, coupled with prior work within a live porcine model, provided evidence that this is a promising approach for implanting a biosensor within the small intestine.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J Biomech Eng. 2017;139(8):081005-081005-12. doi:10.1115/1.4036608.

A detailed quantification and understanding of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) dynamics may improve detection and treatment of central nervous system (CNS) diseases and help optimize CSF system-based delivery of CNS therapeutics. This study presents a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model that utilizes a nonuniform moving boundary approach to accurately reproduce the nonuniform distribution of CSF flow along the spinal subarachnoid space (SAS) of a single cynomolgus monkey. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) protocol was developed and applied to quantify subject-specific CSF space geometry and flow and define the CFD domain and boundary conditions. An algorithm was implemented to reproduce the axial distribution of unsteady CSF flow by nonuniform deformation of the dura surface. Results showed that maximum difference between the MRI measurements and CFD simulation of CSF flow rates was <3.6%. CSF flow along the entire spine was laminar with a peak Reynolds number of ∼150 and average Womersley number of ∼5.4. Maximum CSF flow rate was present at the C4-C5 vertebral level. Deformation of the dura ranged up to a maximum of 134 μm. Geometric analysis indicated that total spinal CSF space volume was ∼8.7 ml. Average hydraulic diameter, wetted perimeter, and SAS area were 2.9 mm, 37.3 mm and 27.24 mm2, respectively. CSF pulse wave velocity (PWV) along the spine was quantified to be 1.2 m/s.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J Biomech Eng. 2017;139(8):081006-081006-7. doi:10.1115/1.4036826.

The maximum diameter (MD) criterion is the most important factor when predicting risk of rupture of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs). An elevated wall stress has also been linked to a high risk of aneurysm rupture, yet is an uncommon clinical practice to compute AAA wall stress. The purpose of this study is to assess whether other characteristics of the AAA geometry are statistically correlated with wall stress. Using in-house segmentation and meshing algorithms, 30 patient-specific AAA models were generated for finite element analysis (FEA). These models were subsequently used to estimate wall stress and maximum diameter and to evaluate the spatial distributions of wall thickness, cross-sectional diameter, mean curvature, and Gaussian curvature. Data analysis consisted of statistical correlations of the aforementioned geometry metrics with wall stress for the 30 AAA inner and outer wall surfaces. In addition, a linear regression analysis was performed with all the AAA wall surfaces to quantify the relationship of the geometric indices with wall stress. These analyses indicated that while all the geometry metrics have statistically significant correlations with wall stress, the local mean curvature (LMC) exhibits the highest average Pearson's correlation coefficient for both inner and outer wall surfaces. The linear regression analysis revealed coefficients of determination for the outer and inner wall surfaces of 0.712 and 0.516, respectively, with LMC having the largest effect on the linear regression equation with wall stress. This work underscores the importance of evaluating AAA mean wall curvature as a potential surrogate for wall stress.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J Biomech Eng. 2017;139(8):081007-081007-8. doi:10.1115/1.4036829.

Objective stress rates are often used in commercial finite element (FE) programs. However, deriving a consistent tangent modulus tensor (also known as elasticity tensor or material Jacobian) associated with the objective stress rates is challenging when complex material models are utilized. In this paper, an approximation method for the tangent modulus tensor associated with the Green-Naghdi rate of the Kirchhoff stress is employed to simplify the evaluation process. The effectiveness of the approach is demonstrated through the implementation of two user-defined fiber-reinforced hyperelastic material models. Comparisons between the approximation method and the closed-form analytical method demonstrate that the former can simplify the material Jacobian evaluation with satisfactory accuracy while retaining its computational efficiency. Moreover, since the approximation method is independent of material models, it can facilitate the implementation of complex material models in FE analysis using shell/membrane elements in abaqus.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J Biomech Eng. 2017;139(8):081008-081008-10. doi:10.1115/1.4036936.

The pediatric use of pneumatic ventricular assist devices (VADs) as a bridge to heart transplant still suffers for short-term major complications such as bleeding and thromboembolism. Although numerical techniques are increasingly exploited to support the process of device optimization, an effective virtual benchmark is still lacking. Focusing on the 12 cc Penn State pneumatic VAD, we developed a novel fluid–structure interaction (FSI) model able to capture the device functioning, reproducing the mechanical interplay between the diaphragm, the blood chamber, and the pneumatic actuation. The FSI model included the diaphragm mechanical response from uniaxial tensile tests, realistic VAD pressure operative conditions from a dedicated mock loop system, and the behavior of VAD valves. Our FSI-based benchmark effectively captured the complexity of the diaphragm dynamics. During diastole, the initial slow diaphragm retraction in the air chamber was followed by a more rapid phase; asymmetries were noticed in the diaphragm configuration during its systolic inflation in the blood chamber. The FSI model also captured the major features of the device fluid dynamics. In particular, during diastole, a rotational wall washing pattern is promoted by the penetrating inlet jet with a low-velocity region located in the center of the device. Our numerical analysis of the 12 cc Penn State VAD points out the potential of the proposed FSI approach well resembling previous experimental evidences; if further tested and validated, it could be exploited as a virtual benchmark to deepen VAD-related complications and to support the ongoing optimization of pediatric devices.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J Biomech Eng. 2017;139(8):081009-081009-10. doi:10.1115/1.4037038.

Tumor growth being a multistage process has been investigated from different aspects. In the present study, an attempt is made to represent a constitutive-structure-based model of avascular tumor growth in which the effects of tensile stresses caused by collagen fibers are considered. Collagen fibers as a source of anisotropy in the structure of tissue are taken into account using a continuous fiber distribution formulation. To this end, a finite element modeling is implemented in which a neo-Hookean hyperelastic material is assigned to the tumor and its surrounding host. The tumor is supplied with a growth term. The growth term includes the effect of parameters such as nutrient concentration on the tumor growth and the tumor's solid phase content in the formulation. Results of the study revealed that decrease of solid phase is indicative of decrease in growth rate and the final steady-state value of tumor's radius. Moreover, fiber distribution affects the final shape of the tumor, and it could be used to control the shape and geometry of the tumor in complex morphologies. Finally, the findings demonstrated that the exerted stresses on the tumor increase as time passes. Compression of tumor cells leads to the reduction of tumor growth rate until it gradually reaches an equilibrium radius. This finding is in accordance with experimental data. Hence, this formulation can be deployed to evaluate both the residual stresses induced by growth and the mechanical interactions with the host tissue.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

Technical Brief

J Biomech Eng. 2017;139(8):084501-084501-7. doi:10.1115/1.4036623.

Annulus fibrosus (AF) defects from intervertebral disk (IVD) herniation and degeneration are commonly associated with back pain. Genipin-crosslinked fibrin hydrogel (FibGen) is an injectable, space-filling AF sealant that was optimized to match AF shear properties and partially restored IVD biomechanics. This study aimed to enhance mechanical behaviors of FibGen to more closely match AF compressive, tensile, and shear properties by adjusting genipin crosslink density and by creating a composite formulation by adding Poly(D,L-lactide-co-glycolide) (PDLGA). This study also evaluated effects of thrombin concentration and injection technique on gelation kinetics and adhesive strength. Increasing FibGen genipin concentration from 1 to 36 mg/mL significantly increased adhesive strength (∼5 to 35 kPa), shear moduli (∼10 to 110 kPa), and compressive moduli (∼25 to 150 kPa) with concentration-dependent effects, and spanning native AF properties. Adding PDLGA to FibGen altered the material microstructure on electron microscopy and nearly tripled adhesive strength, but did not increase tensile moduli, which remained nearly 5× below native AF, and had a small increase in shear moduli and significantly decreased compressive moduli. Increased thrombin concentration decreased gelation rate to < 5 min and injection methods providing a structural FibGen cap increased pushout strength by ∼40%. We conclude that FibGen is highly modifiable with tunable mechanical properties that can be formulated to be compatible with human AF compressive and shear properties and gelation kinetics and injection techniques compatible with clinical discectomy procedures. However, further innovations, perhaps with more efficient fiber reinforcement, will be required to enable FibGen to match AF tensile properties.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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