A finite element head and neck model as a supportive tool for deformable image registration

  • Jihun Kim
  • Kazuhiro Saitou
  • Martha M. Matuszak
  • James M. Balter
Original Article



A finite element (FE) head and neck model was developed as a tool to aid investigations and development of deformable image registration and patient modeling in radiation oncology. Useful aspects of a FE model for these purposes include ability to produce realistic deformations (similar to those seen in patients over the course of treatment) and a rational means of generating new configurations, e.g., via the application of force and/or displacement boundary conditions.


The model was constructed based on a cone-beam computed tomography image of a head and neck cancer patient. The three-node triangular surface meshes created for the bony elements (skull, mandible, and cervical spine) and joint elements were integrated into a skeletal system and combined with the exterior surface. Nodes were additionally created inside the surface structures which were composed of the three-node triangular surface meshes, so that four-node tetrahedral FE elements were created over the whole region of the model. The bony elements were modeled as a homogeneous linear elastic material connected by intervertebral disks. The surrounding tissues were modeled as a homogeneous linear elastic material. Under force or displacement boundary conditions, FE analysis on the model calculates approximate solutions of the displacement vector field.


A FE head and neck model was constructed that skull, mandible, and cervical vertebrae were mechanically connected by disks. The developed FE model is capable of generating realistic deformations that are strain-free for the bony elements and of creating new configurations of the skeletal system with the surrounding tissues reasonably deformed.


The FE model can generate realistic deformations for skeletal elements. In addition, the model provides a way of evaluating the accuracy of image alignment methods by producing a ground truth deformation and correspondingly simulated images. The ability to combine force and displacement conditions provides flexibility for simulating realistic anatomic configurations.


Finite element method Image registration Head and neck Deformation Radiation therapy 



This work was supported by NIHP01CA59827.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Jihun Kim, Kazuhiro Saitou, Martha Matuszak, and James Balter have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© CARS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Radiation OncologyMassachusetts General HospitalBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Department of Radiation OncologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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