Mechanics of the foot Part 2: A coupled solid–fluid model to investigate blood transport in the pathologic foot


K. Mithraratne, Auckland Bioengineering Institute, Level 6, 70 Symonds Street, Auckland, New Zealand.



A coupled computational model of the foot consisting of a three-dimensional soft tissue continuum and a one-dimensional (1D) transient blood flow network is presented in this article. The primary aim of the model is to investigate the blood flow in major arteries of the pathologic foot where the soft tissue stiffening occurs. It has been reported in the literature that there could be up to about five-fold increase in the mechanical stiffness of the plantar soft tissues in pathologic (e.g. diabetic) feet compared with healthy ones. The increased stiffness results in higher tissue hydrostatic pressure within the plantar area of the foot when loaded. The hydrostatic pressure acts on the external surface of blood vessels and tend to reduce the flow cross-section area and hence the blood supply. The soft tissue continuum model of the foot was modelled as a tricubic Hermite finite element mesh representing all the muscles, skin and fat of the foot and treated as incompressible with transversely isotropic properties. The details of the mechanical model of soft tissue are presented in the companion paper, Part 1. The deformed state of the soft tissue continuum because of the applied ground reaction force at three foot positions (heel-strike, midstance and toe-off) was obtained by solving the Cauchy equations based on the theory of finite elasticity using the Galerkin finite element method. The geometry of the main arterial network in the foot was represented using a 1D Hermite cubic finite element mesh. The flow model consists of 1D Navier–Stokes equations and a nonlinear constitutive equation to describe vessel radius–transmural pressure relation. The latter was defined as the difference between the fluid and soft tissue hydrostatic pressure. Transient flow governing equations were numerically solved using the two-step Lax–Wendroff finite difference method. The geometry of both the soft tissue continuum and arterial network is anatomically-based and was developed using the data derived from visible human images and magnetic resonance images of a healthy male volunteer. Simulation results reveal that a two-fold increase in tissue stiffness leads to about 28% reduction in blood flow to the affected region.Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.