A finite element model of the human knee joint for the study of tibio-femoral contact


As a step towards developing a finite element model of the knee that can be used to study how the variables associated with a meniscal replacement affect tibio-femoral contact, the goals of this study were 1) to develop a geometrically accurate three-dimensional solid model of the knee joint with special attention given to the menisci and articular cartilage, 2) to determine to what extent bony deformations affect contact behavior, and 3) to determine whether constraining rotations other than flexion/extension affects the contact behavior of the joint during compressive loading. The model included both the cortical and trabecular bone of the femur and tibia, articular cartilage of the femoral condyles and tibial plateau, both the medial and lateral menisci with their horn attachments, the transverse ligament, the anterior cruciate ligament, and the medial collateral ligament. The solid models for the menisci and articular cartilage were created from surface scans provided by a noncontacting, laser-based, three-dimensional coordinate digitizing system with an root mean squared error (RMSE) of less than 8 microns. Solid models of both the tibia and femur were created from CT images, except for the most proximal surface of the tibia and most distal surface of the femur which were created with the three-dimensional coordinate digitizing system. The constitutive relation of the menisci treated the tissue as transversely isotropic and linearly elastic. Under the application of an 800 N compressive load at 0 degrees of flexion six contact variables in each compartment (i.e., medial and lateral) were computed including maximum pressure, mean pressure, contact area, total contact force, and coordinates of the center of pressure. Convergence of the finite element solution was studied using three mesh sizes ranging from an average element size of 5 mm by 5 mm to 1 mm by 1 mm. The solution was considered converged for an average element size of 2 mm by 2 mm. Using this mesh size, finite element solutions for rigid versus deformable bones indicated that none of the contact variables changed by more than 2% when the femur and tibia were treated as rigid. However, differences in contact variables as large as 19% occurred when rotations other than flexion/extension were constrained. The largest difference was in the maximum pressure. Among the principal conclusions of the study are that accurate finite element solutions of tibio-femoral contact behavior can be obtained by treating the bones as rigid. However, unrealistic constraints on rotations other than flexion/extension can result in relatively large errors in contact variables.

Publication Title

Journal of Biomechanical Engineering