A general method to generate hexahedral meshes for finite element analysis of residual limbs and similar biomedical geometries is presented. The method utilizes skeleton-based subdivision of cross-sectional domains to prodnce simple subdomains in which structured meshes are easily generated. Application to a below-knee residual limb and external prosthetic socket is described. The residual limb was modeled as consisting of bones, soft tissue, and skin. The prosthetic socket model comprised a socket wall with an inner liner. The geometries of these structures were defined using axial cross-sectional contour data from X-ray computed tomography, optical scanning, and mechanical surface digitization. A tubular surface representation, using B-splines to define the directrix and generator, is shown to be convenient for definition of the structure geometries. Conversion of cross-sectional data to the compact tubular surface representation is direct, and the analytical representation simplifies geometric querying and numerical optimization within the mesh generation algorithms. The element meshes remain geometrically accurate since boundary nodes are constrained to lie on the tubular surfaces. Several element meshes of increasing mesh density were generated for two residual limbs and prosthetic sockets. Convergence testing demonstrated that approximately 19 elements are required along a circumference of the residual limb surface for a simple linear elastic model. A model with the fibula absent compared with the same geometry with the fibula present showed differences suggesting higher distal stresses in the absence of the fibula. Automated hexahedral mesh generation algorithms for sliced data represent an advancement in prosthetic stress analysis since they allow rapid modeling of any given residual limb and optimization of mesh parameters.
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