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J Biomech. 2008;41(2):470-4. Epub 2007 Oct 23.

An MRI-compatible foot-loading device for assessment of internal tissue deformation.

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  • 1Diabetic Foot Care Program, The Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH, USA.


It is well known that mechanical forces acting within the soft tissues of the foot can contribute to the formation of neuropathic ulcers in people with diabetes. Presently, only surface measurements of plantar pressure are used clinically to estimate risk status due to mechanical loading. It is currently not known how surface measurements relate to the three-dimensional (3-D) internal stress/strain state of the foot. This article describes the development of a foot-loading device that allows for the direct observation of the internal deformation of foot tissues under known forces. Ground reaction forces and plantar pressure distributions during normal walking were measured in ten healthy young adults. One instant in the gait cycle, when pressure under the metatarsal heads reached a peak, was extracted for simulation in an MR imager. T1-weighted 3-D gradient echo MRI sets were collected as the simulated walking ground reaction force was incrementally applied to the foot by the novel foot-loading device. The sub-metatarsal head soft-tissue thickness decreased rapidly at first and then reached a plateau. Peak plantar pressure measurements collected within the loading device (161+/-75kPa) were lower in magnitude and less focal than pressures measured during walking (492+/-91kPa). This finding implies that although the device successfully applied full peak walking ground reaction forces to the foot, they were not distributed in the same manner as during walking. Although not representative of gait, the data collected from this in vivo mechanical test are suitable for determination of foot tissue material properties or, when combined with finite element modeling, to examine the relationship between surface loading and internal stress.

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