The influence of ligament modelling strategies on the predictive capability of finite element models of the human knee joint

J Biomech. 2017 Dec 8:65:1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2017.08.030. Epub 2017 Sep 5.


In finite element (FE) models knee ligaments can represented either by a group of one-dimensional springs, or by three-dimensional continuum elements based on segmentations. Continuum models closer approximate the anatomy, and facilitate ligament wrapping, while spring models are computationally less expensive. The mechanical properties of ligaments can be based on literature, or adjusted specifically for the subject. In the current study we investigated the effect of ligament modelling strategy on the predictive capability of FE models of the human knee joint. The effect of literature-based versus specimen-specific optimized material parameters was evaluated. Experiments were performed on three human cadaver knees, which were modelled in FE models with ligaments represented either using springs, or using continuum representations. In spring representation collateral ligaments were each modelled with three and cruciate ligaments with two single-element bundles. Stiffness parameters and pre-strains were optimized based on laxity tests for both approaches. Validation experiments were conducted to evaluate the outcomes of the FE models. Models (both spring and continuum) with subject-specific properties improved the predicted kinematics and contact outcome parameters. Models incorporating literature-based parameters, and particularly the spring models (with the representations implemented in this study), led to relatively high errors in kinematics and contact pressures. Using a continuum modelling approach resulted in more accurate contact outcome variables than the spring representation with two (cruciate ligaments) and three (collateral ligaments) single-element-bundle representations. However, when the prediction of joint kinematics is of main interest, spring ligament models provide a faster option with acceptable outcome.

Keywords: Computational model validation; Finite element method; Kinematics; Knee contact pressure; Knee ligament; Subject-specific model.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiology*
  • Ligaments, Articular / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*