Original Paper

Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 35-47

First online:

The application of muscle wrapping to voxel-based finite element models of skeletal structures

  • Jia LiuAffiliated withDepartment of Computer Science, University of Hull
  • , Junfen ShiAffiliated withDepartment of Engineering, University of Hull
  • , Laura C. FittonAffiliated withHull-York Medical School, The University of York
  • , Roger PhillipsAffiliated withDepartment of Computer Science, University of Hull
  • , Paul O’HigginsAffiliated withHull-York Medical School, The University of York
  • , Michael J. FaganAffiliated withDepartment of Engineering, University of Hull Email author 

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Finite elements analysis (FEA) is now used routinely to interpret skeletal form in terms of function in both medical and biological applications. To produce accurate predictions from FEA models, it is essential that the loading due to muscle action is applied in a physiologically reasonable manner. However, it is common for muscle forces to be represented as simple force vectors applied at a few nodes on the model’s surface. It is certainly rare for any wrapping of the muscles to be considered, and yet wrapping not only alters the directions of muscle forces but also applies an additional compressive load from the muscle belly directly to the underlying bone surface. This paper presents a method of applying muscle wrapping to high-resolution voxel-based finite element (FE) models. Such voxel-based models have a number of advantages over standard (geometry-based) FE models, but the increased resolution with which the load can be distributed over a model’s surface is particularly advantageous, reflecting more closely how muscle fibre attachments are distributed. In this paper, the development, application and validation of a muscle wrapping method is illustrated using a simple cylinder. The algorithm: (1) calculates the shortest path over the surface of a bone given the points of origin and ultimate attachment of the muscle fibres; (2) fits a Non-Uniform Rational B-Spline (NURBS) curve from the shortest path and calculates its tangent, normal vectors and curvatures so that normal and tangential components of the muscle force can be calculated and applied along the fibre; and (3) automatically distributes the loads between adjacent fibres to cover the bone surface with a fully distributed muscle force, as is observed in vivo. Finally, we present a practical application of this approach to the wrapping of the temporalis muscle around the cranium of a macaque skull.


Muscle wrapping Finite element analysis Voxel-based Stress analysis