Finite element analysis of the performance of additively manufactured scaffolds for scapholunate ligament reconstruction

PLoS ONE 2021 Volume 16, Issue 11, Article: e0256528

Rupture of the scapholunate interosseous ligament can cause the dissociation of scaphoid and lunate bones, resulting in impaired wrist function. Current treatments (e.g., tendon-based surgical reconstruction, screw-based fixation, fusion, or carpectomy) may restore wrist stability, but do not address regeneration of the ruptured ligament, and may result in wrist functional limitations and osteoarthritis. Recently a novel multiphasic bone-ligament-bone scaffold was proposed, which aims to reconstruct the ruptured ligament, and which can be 3D-printed using medical-grade polycaprolactone. This scaffold is composed of a central ligament-scaffold section and features a bone attachment terminal at either end. Since the ligament-scaffold is the primary load bearing structure during physiological wrist motion, its geometry, mechanical properties, and the surgical placement of the scaffold are critical for performance optimisation. This study presents a patient-specific computational biomechanical evaluation of the effect of scaffold length, and positioning of the bone attachment sites. Through segmentation and image processing of medical image data for natural wrist motion, detailed 3D geometries as well as patient-specific physiological wrist motion could be derived. This data formed the input for detailed finite element analysis, enabling computational of scaffold stress and strain distributions, which are key predictors of scaffold structural integrity. The computational analysis demonstrated that longer scaffolds present reduced peak scaffold stresses and a more homogeneous stress state compared to shorter scaffolds. Furthermore, it was found that scaffolds attached at proximal sites experience lower stresses than those attached at distal sites. However, scaffold length, rather than bone terminal location, most strongly influences peak stress. For each scaffold terminal placement configuration, a basic metric was computed indicative of bone fracture risk. This metric was the minimum distance from the bone surface to the internal scaffold bone terminal. Analysis of this minimum bone thickness data confirmed further optimisation of terminal locations is warranted.