The generation of subject-specific musculoskeletal models of the lower limb has become a feasible task thanks to improvements in medical imaging technology and musculoskeletal modelling software. Nevertheless, clinical use of these models in paediatric applications is still limited for what concerns the estimation of muscle and joint contact forces. Aiming to improve the current state of the art, a methodology to generate highly personalized subject-specific musculoskeletal models of the lower limb based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans was codified as a step-by-step procedure and applied to data from eight juvenile individuals. The generated musculoskeletal models were used to simulate 107 gait trials using stereophotogrammetric and force platform data as input. To ensure completeness of the modelling procedure, muscles' architecture needs to be estimated. Four methods to estimate muscles' maximum isometric force and two methods to estimate musculotendon parameters (optimal fiber length and tendon slack length) were assessed and compared, in order to quantify their influence on the models' output. Reported results represent the first comprehensive subject-specific model-based characterization of juvenile gait biomechanics, including profiles of joint kinematics and kinetics, muscle forces and joint contact forces. Our findings suggest that, when musculotendon parameters were linearly scaled from a reference model and the muscle force-length-velocity relationship was accounted for in the simulations, realistic knee contact forces could be estimated and these forces were not sensitive the method used to compute muscle maximum isometric force.
The ability of muscles to produce force depends, among others, on their anatomical features and it is altered by ageing-associated weakening. However, a clear characterisation of these features, highly relevant for older individuals, is still lacking. This study hence aimed at characterising muscle volume, length, and physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA) and their variability, between body sides and between individuals, in a group of post-menopausal women. Lower-limb magnetic resonance images were acquired from eleven participants (69 (7) y. o., 66.9 (7.7) kg, 159 (3) cm). Twenty-three muscles were manually segmented from the images and muscle volume, length and PCSA were calculated from this dataset. Personalised maximal isometric force was then calculated using the latter information. The percentage difference between the muscles of the two lower limbs was up to 89% and 22% for volume and length, respectively, and up to 84% for PCSA, with no recognisable pattern associated with limb dominance. Between-subject coefficients of variation reached 36% and 13% for muscle volume and length, respectively. Generally, muscle parameters were similar to previous literature, but volumes were smaller than those from in-vivo young adults and slightly higher than ex-vivo ones. Maximal isometric force was found to be on average smaller than those obtained from estimates based on linear scaling of ex-vivo-based literature values. In conclusion, this study quantified for the first time anatomical asymmetry of lower-limb muscles in older women, suggesting that symmetry should not be assumed in this population. Furthermore, we showed that a scaling approach, widely used in musculoskeletal modelling, leads to an overestimation of the maximal isometric force for most muscles. This heavily questions the validity of this approach for older populations. As a solution, the unique dataset of muscle segmentation made available with this paper could support the development of alternative population-based scaling approaches, together with that of automatic tools for muscle segmentation.
In vivo estimates of tibiotalar and the subtalar joint kinematics can unveil unique information about gait biomechanics, especially in the presence of musculoskeletal disorders affecting the foot and ankle complex. Previous literature investigated the ankle kinematics on ex vivo data sets, but little has been reported for natural walking, and even less for pathological and juvenile populations. This paper proposes an MRI-based morphological fitting methodology for the personalised definition of the tibiotalar and the subtalar joint axes during gait, and investigated its application to characterise the ankle kinematics in twenty patients affected by Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA). The estimated joint axes were in line with in vivo and ex vivo literature data and joint kinematics variation subsequent to inter-operator variability was in the order of 1°. The model allowed to investigate, for the first time in patients with JIA, the functional response to joint impairment. The joint kinematics highlighted changes over time that were consistent with changes in the patient's clinical pattern and notably varied from patient to patient. The heterogeneous and patientspecific nature of the effects of JIA was confirmed by the absence of a correlation between a semiquantitative MRI-based impairment score and a variety of investigated joint kinematics indexes. In conclusion, this study showed the feasibility of using MRI and morphological fitting to identify the tibiotalar and subtalar joint axes in a non-invasive patient-specific manner. The proposed methodology represents an innovative and reliable approach to the analysis of the ankle joint kinematics in pathological juvenile populations.
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) is a paediatric musculoskeletal disease of unknown aetiology, leading to walking alterations when the lower-limb joints are involved. Diagnosis of JIA is mostly clinical. Imaging can quantify impairments associated to inflammation and joint damage. However, treatment planning could be better supported using dynamic information, such as joint contact forces (JCFs). To this purpose, we used a musculoskeletal model to predict JCFs and investigate how JCFs varied as a result of joint impairment in eighteen children with JIA. Gait analysis data and magnetic resonance images (MRI) were used to develop patient-specific lower-limb musculoskeletal models, which were evaluated for operator-dependent variability (< 3.6°, 0.05 N kg 21 and 0.5 BW for joint angles, moments, and JCFs, respectively). Gait alterations and JCF patterns showed high between-subjects variability reflecting the pathology heterogeneity in the cohort. Higher joint impairment, assessed with MRI-based evaluation, was weakly associated to overall joint overloading. A stronger correlation was observed between impairment of one limb and overload of the contralateral limb, suggesting risky compensatory strategies being adopted, especially at the knee level. This suggests that knee overloading during gait might be a good predictor of disease progression and gait biomechanics should be used to inform treatment planning.
Subject-specific musculoskeletal modelling is especially useful in the study of juvenile and pathological subjects. However, such methodologies typically require a human operator to identify key landmarks from medical imaging data and are thus affected by unavoidable variability in the parameters defined and subsequent model predictions. The aim of this study was to thus quantify the inter- and intra-operator repeatability of a subject-specific modelling methodology developed for the analysis of subjects with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Three operators each created subject-specific musculoskeletal foot and ankle models via palpation of bony landmarks, adjustment of geometrical muscle points and definition of joint coordinate systems. These models were then fused to a generic Arnold lower limb model for each of three modelled patients. The repeatability of each modelling operation was found to be comparable to those previously reported for the modelling of healthy, adult subjects. However, the inter-operator repeatability of muscle point definition was significantly greater than intra-operator repeatability (p < 0.05) and predicted ankle joint contact forces ranged by up to 24% and 10% of the peak force for the inter- and intra-operator analyses, respectively. Similarly, the maximum inter- and intra-operator variations in muscle force output were 64% and 23% of peak force, respectively. Our results suggest that subject-specific modelling is operator dependent at the foot and ankle, with the definition of muscle geometry the most significant source of output uncertainty. The development of automated procedures to prevent the misplacement of crucial muscle points should therefore be considered a particular priority for those developing subject-specific models.
Abnormalities in the ankle contact pressure are related to the onset of osteoarthritis. In vivo measurements are not possible with currently available techniques, so computational methods such as the finite element analysis (FEA) are often used instead. The discrete element method (DEM), a computationally efficient alternative to time-consuming FEA, has also been used to predict the joint contact pressure. It describes the articular cartilage as a bed of independent springs, assuming a linearly elastic behaviour and absence of relative motion between the bones. In this study, we present the extended DEM (EDEM) which is able to track the motion of talus over time. The method was used, with input data from a subject-specific musculoskeletal model, to predict the contact pressure in the ankle joint during gait. Results from EDEM were also compared with outputs from conventional DEM. Predicted values of contact area were larger in EDEM than they were in DEM (4.67 and 4.18 cm2, respectively). Peak values of contact pressure, attained at the toe-off, were 7.3 MPa for EDEM and 6.92 MPa for DEM. Values predicted from EDEM fell well within the ranges reported in the literature. Overall, the motion of the talus had more effect on the extension and shape of the pressure distribution than it had on the magnitude of the pressure. The results indicated that EDEM is a valid methodology for the prediction of ankle contact pressure during daily activities.
Background Lower extremity analysis for preoperative total knee and hip arthroplasty routines can increase surgery success rate and hence reduce associated costs. Current tools are limited by being invasive, limited to supine analysis, or too expensive. This study aimed to propose and validate a device, OrthoPilot®, based on the combined use of a stereophotogrammetric and ultrasound system which can in vivo and noninvasively measure varus/valgus, flexion/extension, femur and tibia torsion, and femur and tibia lengths. Methods A phantom was measured by four operators to determine the resolution of the system. Interoperator variability was measured on three operators who measured the above six variables on both legs of three subjects in standing and supine positions. Intraoperator variability was assessed on data from three repeats from 9 subjects (18 legs). Results All 6 variables were reliably detected on a phantom, with a resolution of 1 mm and 0.5°. Inter- and intraoperator consistency was observed for varus/valgus, flexion/extension, and length measurements on the healthy subjects in standing and supine positions (all ICC > 0.93). For torsion measurements, there was a considerable variation. Conclusion The proposed system, when used on healthy subjects, allowed reliable measurements of key parameters for preoperative procedures in both supine and standing positions. Accuracy testing and further validation on patient populations will be the next step toward its clinical adoption.
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