Failure of articular cartilage has been investigated experimentally and theoretically, but there is only partial agreement between observed failure and predicted regions of peak stresses. Since trauma and repetitive stress are implicated in the etiopathogenesis of osteoarthritis, it is important to develop cartilage models which correctly predict sites of high stresses. Cartilage is anisotropic and inhomogeneous, though it has been difficult to incorporate these complexities into engineering analyses. The objectives of this study are to demonstrate that a transversely isotropic, biphasic model of cartilage can provide agreement between predicted regions of high stresses and observed regions of cartilage failure and that with transverse isotropy cartilage stresses are more sensitive to convexity and concavity of the surfaces than with isotropy. These objectives are achieved by solving problems of diarthrodial joint contact by the finite-element method. Results demonstrate that transversely isotropic models predict peak stresses at the cartilage surface and the cartilage–bone interface, in agreement with sites of fissures following impact loading; isotropic models predict peak stresses only at the cartilage–bone interface. Also, when convex cartilage layers contacted concave layers in this study, the highest tensile stresses occur in the convex layer for transversely isotropic models; no such differences are found with isotropic models. The significance of this study is that it establishes a threshold of modeling complexity for articular cartilage that provides good agreement with experimental observations under impact loading and that surface curvatures significantly affect stress and strain within cartilage when using a biphasic transversely isotropic model.
Transverse isotropy; Articular cartilage; Stress shielding; Contact model; Finite element formulation