The mechanical interaction between the surgical tools and the target soft tissue is mainly dictated by the fracture toughness of the tissue in several medical procedures, such as catheter insertion, robotic-guided needle placement, suturing, cutting or tearing, and biopsy. Despite the numerous experimental works on the fracture toughness of hard biomaterials, such as bone and dentin, only a very limited number of studies have focused on soft tissues, where the results do not show any consistency mainly due to the negligence of the puncturing/cutting tool geometry. In order to address this issue, we performed needle insertion experiments on 3 bovine livers with 4 custom-made needles having different diameters. A unique value for fracture toughness (J=164±6 J/m(2)) was obtained for the bovine liver by fitting a line to the toughness values estimated from the set of insertion experiments. In order to validate the experimental results, a finite element model of the bovine liver was developed and its hyper-viscoelastic material properties were estimated through an inverse solution based on static indentation and ramp-and-hold experiments. Then, needle insertion into the model was simulated utilizing an energy-based fracture mechanics approach. The insertion forces estimated from the FE simulations show an excellent agreement with those acquired from the physical experiments for all needle geometries.
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