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PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31769. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031769. Epub 2012 Feb 21.

The importance of craniofacial sutures in biomechanical finite element models of the domestic pig.

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  • 1Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom.


Craniofacial sutures are a ubiquitous feature of the vertebrate skull. Previous experimental work has shown that bone strain magnitudes and orientations often vary when moving from one bone to another, across a craniofacial suture. This has led to the hypothesis that craniofacial sutures act to modify the strain environment of the skull, possibly as a mode of dissipating high stresses generated during feeding or impact. This study tests the hypothesis that the introduction of craniofacial sutures into finite element (FE) models of a modern domestic pig skull would improve model accuracy compared to a model without sutures. This allowed the mechanical effects of sutures to be assessed in isolation from other confounding variables. These models were also validated against strain gauge data collected from the same specimen ex vivo. The experimental strain data showed notable strain differences between adjacent bones, but this effect was generally not observed in either model. It was found that the inclusion of sutures in finite element models affected strain magnitudes, ratios, orientations and contour patterns, yet contrary to expectations, this did not improve the fit of the model to the experimental data, but resulted in a model that was less accurate. It is demonstrated that the presence or absence of sutures alone is not responsible for the inaccuracies in model strain, and is suggested that variations in local bone material properties, which were not accounted for by the FE models, could instead be responsible for the pattern of results.

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