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Computer driven finite element (FE) models, once confined to engineering analyses, can now be utilized to model in-vivo phenomena for experimental discovery.When validated, such parametric models offer researchers a unique environment for experimental discovery.While clinical studies can address treatment outcomes, and human cadaveric biomechanical studies can estimate mechanical responses to external loads using in-vitro two-dimensional sensors, computer based parametric models offer a unique in-silico three-dimensional perspective of the biomechanical behavior of normal, altered, and pathological tissues.[1] For example, biomechanical changes following carpal tunnel release surgery have been extensively examined in-vitro and in-vivo.[2-4] These studies, however, require either assumptions for in-vivo relevance of cadaveric tests or the implantation of mechanical devices which could alter observations. Another well-studied example is the human digital flexor pulley system.[5-7] Questions remain, however, whether in-vitro observations are valid in an in-vivo environment.The accuracy of these studies is limited by data collection sites, an altered three-dimensional environment, and two-dimensional solutions to three-dimensional problems.

Early FE models used simplistic rigid masses connected by springs to estimate anatomical responses to external loads.With this technique, Lie and Ray in 1973 analyzed the behavior of the human spinal column while applying an external force.[8] While these simplified models are useful for analyzing some biomechanical problems, they cannot simulate the actual three-dimensional relationships required for realistic in-vivo responses to an external force.Recognizing the weaknesses of earlier techniques, several researchers developed more accurate and comprehensive models during the 1990s.[9-11] Computer processing power, however, was limited and fully accurate comprehensive anatomical models were too large for mainstream desktop computers to solve.By the mid 1990ís, computer processor speeds were increasing. With these technological advances, the vast amount of calculations needed to solve even simplistic models could now be accomplished using a desktop computer.In 1996, Yoganandan et al developed a comprehensive model for the C4-C6 spinal unit from digital radiographic images and serial sections.This three-dimensional model was discretized using 9,178 eight-noded isoparametric brick elements and 1,193 thin shell elements.The model, composed of 10,371 nodes, was analyzed for axial stress distributions after applying an external force.[1] This work represented the first multi-structured anatomically accurate three-dimensional human model to be biomechanically analyzed and validated for accuracy.

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