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Med Eng Phys. 2013 Nov;35(11):1591-8. doi: 10.1016/j.medengphy.2013.05.005. Epub 2013 Jun 10.

Influences of the depth-dependent material inhomogeneity of articular cartilage on the fluid pressurization in the human knee.

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Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive, N.W., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4.


The material properties of articular cartilage are depth-dependent, i.e. they differ in the superficial, middle and deep zones. The role of this depth-dependent material inhomogeneity in the poromechanical response of the knee joint has not been investigated with patient-specific joint modeling. In the present study, the depth-dependent and site-specific material properties were incorporated in an anatomically accurate knee model that consisted of the distal femur, femoral cartilage, menisci, tibial cartilage and proximal tibia. The collagen fibers, proteoglycan matrix and fluid in articular cartilage and menisci were considered as distinct constituents. The fluid pressurization in the knee was determined with finite element analysis. The results demonstrated the influences of the depth-dependent inhomogeneity on the fluid pressurization, compressive stress, first principal stress and strain along the tissue depth. The depth-dependent inhomogeneity enhanced the fluid support to loading in the superficial zone by raising the fluid pressure and lowering the compressive effective stress at the same time. The depth-dependence also reduced the tensile stress and strain at the cartilage-bone interface. The present 3D modeling revealed a complex fluid pressurization and 3D stresses that depended on the mechanical contact and relaxation time, which could not be predicted by existing 2D models from the literature. The greatest fluid pressure was observed in the medial condyle, regardless of the depth-dependent inhomogeneity. The results indicated the roles of the tissue inhomogeneity in reducing deep tissue fractures, protecting the superficial tissue from excessive compressive stress and improving the lubrication in the joint.


Articular cartilage mechanics; Cartilage heterogeneity; Collagen fiber orientation; Finite element analysis; Fluid pressure; Knee joint mechanics

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