The importance of modeling the human cerebral vasculature in blunt trauma

Biomed Eng Online. 2021 Jan 14;20(1):11. doi: 10.1186/s12938-021-00847-x.


Background: Multiple studies describing human head finite element (FE) models have established the importance of including the major cerebral vasculature to improve the accuracy of the model predictions. However, a more detailed network of cerebral vasculature, including the major veins and arteries as well as their branch vessels, can further enhance the model-predicted biomechanical responses and help identify correlates to observed blunt-induced brain injury.

Methods: We used an anatomically accurate three-dimensional geometry of a 50th percentile U.S. male head that included the skin, eyes, sinuses, spine, skull, brain, meninges, and a detailed network of cerebral vasculature to develop a high-fidelity model. We performed blunt trauma simulations and determined the intracranial pressure (ICP), the relative displacement (RD), the von Mises stress, and the maximum principal strain. We validated our detailed-vasculature model by comparing the model-predicted ICP and RD values with experimental measurements. To quantify the influence of including a more comprehensive network of brain vessels, we compared the biomechanical responses of our detailed-vasculature model with those of a reduced-vasculature model and a no-vasculature model.

Results: For an inclined frontal impact, the predicted ICP matched well with the experimental results in the fossa, frontal, parietal, and occipital lobes, with peak-pressure differences ranging from 2.4% to 9.4%. For a normal frontal impact, the predicted ICP matched the experimental results in the frontal lobe and lateral ventricle, with peak-pressure discrepancies equivalent to 1.9% and 22.3%, respectively. For an offset parietal impact, the model-predicted RD matched well with the experimental measurements, with peak RD differences of 27% and 24% in the right and left cerebral hemispheres, respectively. Incorporating the detailed cerebral vasculature did not influence the ICP but redistributed the brain-tissue stresses and strains by as much as 30%. In addition, our detailed-vasculature model predicted strain reductions by as much as 28% when compared to current reduced-vasculature FE models that only include the major cerebral vessels.

Conclusions: Our study highlights the importance of including a detailed representation of the cerebral vasculature in FE models to more accurately estimate the biomechanical responses of the human brain to blunt impact.

Keywords: Blunt impact; Finite element model; Human cerebral vasculature; Traumatic brain injury.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Pressure
  • Models, Biological*
  • Skull
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / physiopathology*