Human joints undergo repetitive compressive and shear loading with a wide range of motion. These mechanical factors are partially responsible for degeneration such as osteoarthritis. Hence, the understanding of the mechanical behaviour of articular structures under load can provide an insight into their function. The complex geometry of these structures combined with their non-linear behaviour render finite element analysis an appropriate computational tool for the modelling of their biomechanical response under load.
The aim of this work was to create a computational tool able to gain greater insight into the role and function of the meniscus-meniscal ligament construct of the knee.
Finite element models of the human tibiofemoral joint were created based on experimental data. The mechanical behaviour of articular structures was studied at various angles of flexion under physiological loading using a novel formulation of boundary conditions. The effects of kinematic constraints, material models, stiffness and position of insertional ligaments, meniscal pathology and the meniscal ligaments on articular contact and meniscal motion were assessed.
The results from the simulations using the generic models are in line with data from the literature. The material properties of articular cartilage and menisci both influenced the values of the resulting stresses, but not their distribution, except for an isotropic meniscus. The stiffness of the insertional ligaments did not influence contact mechanics, but the position of their tibial attachments did. The anterior intermeniscal ligament did not show any effect on meniscal motion or articular contact, but the deep medial collateral ligament and the meniscofemoral ligaments affected the stress distribution between tibial compartments.
This study shows that computational modelling can be robustly used to help analyse the function and role of articular structures of the human knee joint. This approach could be further explored for use in clinical practice and for artificial implant design.
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