A comparison between mechano-electrochemical and biphasic swelling theories for soft hydrated tissues

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Biological tissues like intervertebral discs and articular cartilage primarily consist of interstitial fluid, collagen fibrils and negatively charged proteoglycans. Due to the fixed charges of the proteoglycans, the total ion concentration inside the tissue is higher than in the surrounding synovial fluid (cation concentration is higher and the anion concentration is lower). This excess of ion particles leads to an osmotic pressure difference, which causes swelling of the tissue. In the last decade several mechano-electrochemical models, which include this mechanism, have been developed. As these models are complex and computationally expensive, it is only possible to analyze geometrically relatively small problems. Furthermore, there is still no commercial finite element tool that includes such a mechano-electrochemical theory. Lanir (Biorheology, 24, pp. 173–187, 1987) hypothesized that electrolyte flux in articular cartilage can be neglected in mechanical studies. Lanir's hypothesis implies that the swelling behavior of cartilage is only determined by deformation of the solid and by fluid flow. Hence, the response could be described by adding a deformation-dependent pressure term to the standard biphasic equations. Based on this theory we developed a biphasic swelling model. The goal of the study was to test Lanir's hypothesis for a range of material properties. We compared the deformation behavior predicted by the biphasic swelling model and a full mechano-electrochemical model for confined compression and 1D swelling. It was shown that, depending on the material properties, the biphasic swelling model behaves largely the same as the mechano-electrochemical model, with regard to stresses and strains in the tissue following either mechanical or chemical perturbations. Hence, the biphasic swelling model could be an alternative for the more complex mechano-electrochemical model, in those cases where the ion flux itself is not the subject of the study. We propose thumbrules to estimate the correlation between the two models for specific problems
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-165
JournalJournal of Biomechanical Engineering : Transactions of the ASME
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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