The Ewey-Gooey Side of Human Simulation

Courtesy Argonne Labs
Courtesy Argonne Labs

Yep, it had to come to this. If you’re a bit squeamish, you may want to stop reading now. But if you want to know what it takes to accurately simulate the human body and develop innovative medical treatments, then read on… at your own risk.

As I mentioned in my previous posts, bioengineers must accurately model human body tissue in order to perform realistic simulation of medical devices and treatments. So, what is human body tissue? Here’s a simple definition of biological tissue from “An aggregate of similar cells and cell products forming a definite kind of structural material with a specific function, in a multicellular organism”.

Still with me? This blog is going to get gooey really fast.

Check out how engineers at Argonne Labs along with researchers as the University of Chicago Medical School are using Abaqus FEA to simulate the effect of cooling kidneys with ice slurry to prolong surgery procedures. Their innovative coolant enables surgeons to nearly triple the time allotted for laparoscopic procedures. Take a peak at their animation of the kidney cooling analysis here.

Courtesy University of Frankfurt
Courtesy University of Frankfurt

Who wants bedsores? Not me, nor the patients who experience prolonged periods of bed rest. Unfortunately, this painful and health-threatening problem strikes thousands of patients every year. Researchers at the University of Frankfurt are working to solve this problem by using Abaqus to analyze how patient contact with hospital beds cause internal stress and strain on human tissue. Check out their case study at Product Design and Development’s website.

Prefer some more cerebral images? Check out the analysis and visualization being peformed by bioengineers at Boston University.

Courtesy Boston University
Courtesy Boston University

They are using Abaqus to study how electrodes perform when implanted into a patient’s brain to monitor epileptic activity for surgical pre-evaluation. You can read details of their brain EEG study in this related Abaqus Tech Brief.

So, if you’re not completely grossed out by all the human tissue flying around, then do a Google search using the key words human tissue simulation with Abaqus.

Let me know if you find some good, ‘ewey-gooey’ realistic simuation examples.


ps – In future posts I will continue our medical journey, but for now I need some fresh air.

  • Srihari Gangaraj

    Development of surgical techniques based on results from FEA simulation — that’s a really scary thought ! What if the FEA result was off by 5% due to discretization or convergence error. Would that lead the surgeon to cut the wrong tissue!
    How would one perform Validation of the FEA results in this scenario ? Can you put a Kidney in a Test Setup to estimate it’s thermal conductivity 😉
    All the nice color plots showing the use of FEA of biomedical applications will be a treasure only for marketing folks but for mere mechanical mortals — they are glimpses of nightmare.

  • Tim

    Hello Srihari – sorry for the delay in replying.

    Your comments on accuracy are valid, not only for life science applications, but for all industries.

    FEA provides excellent guidance to engineers who use it correctly. But the analysis results need to be validated to meet the specificications of the each application.

    At his blog site, Ken Perry, goes into quite a bit of detail on the need for validation of FEA results for medical device development as well as examples of how such validation can be done.

    If you have time, check out his recent post on FEA and the FDA here

    Much of the work in using FEA for tissue modeling or surgical planning is considered to be active research and bioengineering researchers are pushing the limit. The Journal of Biomechanics provide many examples of the relevance of non-linear FEA to this community.

    Our SIMULIA R&D staff are continuing to work to improve Abaqus with every release to tackle such the inherently complex and non-linear relationships that are involved.

    I do appreciate your comments, but I personally don’t see the use of FEA in medical devices and evaluating surgery as scary, but as potentially life saving.

    Happy to chat with you more about this..and involve others in the discussion as it is certainly a valid view point and one that can lead to some great discussions.