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J Biomech Eng. 2000 Aug;122(4):364-71.

Infant skull and suture properties: measurements and implications for mechanisms of pediatric brain injury.

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Department of Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104, USA.


The mechanical properties of the adult human skull are well documented, but little information is available for the infant skull. To determine the age-dependent changes in skull properties, we tested human and porcine infant cranial bone in three-point bending. The measurement of elastic modulus in the human and porcine infant cranial bone agrees with and extends previous published data [McPherson, G. K., and Kriewall, T. J. (1980), J. Biomech., 13, pp. 9-16] for human infant cranial bone. After confirming that the porcine and human cranial bone properties were comparable, additional tensile and three-point bending studies were conducted on porcine cranial bone and suture. Comparisons of the porcine infant data with previously published adult human data demonstrate that the elastic modulus, ultimate stress, and energy absorbed to failure increase, and the ultimate strain decreases with age for cranial bone. Likewise, we conclude that the elastic modulus, ultimate stress, and energy absorbed to failure increase with age for sutures. We constructed two finite element models of an idealized one-month old infant head, one with pediatric and the other adult skull properties, and subjected them to impact loading to investigate the contribution of the cranial bone properties on the intracranial tissue deformation pattern. The computational simulations demonstrate that the comparatively compliant skull and membranous suture properties of the infant brain case are associated with large cranial shape changes, and a more diffuse pattern of brain distortion than when the skull takes on adult properties. These studies are a fundamental initial step in predicting the unique mechanical response of the pediatric skull to traumatic loads associated with head injury and, thus, for defining head injury thresholds for children.

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