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Med Eng Phys. 2002 May;24(4):253-64.

Simulation of mechanical responses of fingertip to dynamic loading.

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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Morgantown, West Virginia 2650, USA.


Extended exposure to mechanical vibration has been related to many vascular, sensorineural and musculoskeletal disorders of the hand-arm system, frequently termed 'hand-arm vibration syndrome' (HAVS). A two-dimensional, nonlinear finite element model of a fingertip is developed to study the stress and strain fields of the soft tissue under dynamic loading, that may be encountered while grasping and operating a hand-held power tool. The model incorporates the most essential anatomical elements of a fingertip, such as soft tissue, bone, and nail. The finger is assumed to be in contact with a steel plate, simulating the interaction between the fingertip and a vibrating machine tool or handle. The soft tissue is assumed to be nonlinearly visco-elastic, while the nail, bone, and steel plate are considered to be linearly elastic. In order to study the time-dependent deformation behavior of the fingertip, the numerical simulations were performed under ramp-like loading with different ramping periods and sinusoidal vibrations of the contacting plate at three different frequencies (1, 10, and 31.5 Hz). Owing to relatively large deformations of the soft tissue under specified static and dynamic loading, Lagrangian large deformation theory was applied in the present analysis. The effects of the loading rate and the frequency of the sinusoidal vibration on the time-dependent strain/stress distributions in the different depth within the soft tissue of the fingertip are investigated numerically. Our simulations suggest that the soft tissue of the fingertip experiences high local stress and strain under dynamic loading and the fingertip may separate from the vibrating contact surface due to the viscous deformation behaviour of the soft tissue. For a given deformation, the high frequency loading produces a higher stress in the tissues compared to that obtained at a low frequency loading. The present model may serve as a useful tool to study the mechanism of tissue degeneration under vibratory loading encountered during operation of hand-held power tools.

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