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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/L017997/1
Title: Mathematical modelling of anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction surgery to improve surgical techniques
Principal Investigator: Shearer, Dr T
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Mathematics
Organisation: University of Manchester, The
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 28 April 2014 Ends: 27 April 2017 Value (£): 224,323
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biomaterials Biomechanics & Rehabilitation
Continuum Mechanics
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
21 Jan 2014 EPSRC Mathematics Interviews - January 2014 Announced
27 Nov 2013 Mathematics Prioritisation Panel Meeting Nov 2013 Deferred
Summary on Grant Application Form
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the most frequently injured knee ligament, and is one of the structures most commonly injured in sport. Due to the fact that it does not heal naturally, the standard treatment for a ruptured ACL is surgical reconstruction, to which there are several approaches, the most common being patellar tendon (PT) and hamstring tendon (HT) autograft, where the patient's own tendon is extracted and grafted into the location of the ruptured ACL. There is currently no consensus with respect to the choice between these two grafts. Previous decisions on which graft material to use have been empirically based; we aim to develop a theory to provide a justification for this choice based on the differing mechanics of the graft materials. The first aim of this project will be to use mathematical modelling techniques to determine which of the graft choices behaves physically most like a healthy ACL.

It is known that the ACL, PT and HT all behave differently when stretched, some ligaments and tendons are stiffer than others. We will attempt to explain these differences using mathematical models which incorporate the internal structure of each material. There have been attempts to model the ACL mathematically in the past and to model ligament behaviour in general; however, to the the author's knowledge, there has not been an attempt to compare the ACL, PT and HT all within the same framework.

Ligaments and tendons have an extremely hierarchical structure. Their main subunit is a group of fibres called a fascicle, which is made of thinner fibres called fibrils arranged in a crimped pattern. The diameter of fascicles is typically in the range of 50-300 micrometers and that of fibrils is 50-500 nanometers. We hypothesise that it is the arrangement of these fascicles and fibrils that gives tendons and ligaments their differing mechanical properties.

There is also currently no consensus with regards to the techniques used in ACL reconstruction surgery. The single-bundle technique consists of a single graft from the tibial insertion location (footprint) of the ACL to the femural footprint, whereas the double-bundle technique involves fixing two separate grafts in order to simulate the two functional bundles of the ACL. A recent review of the single-bundle and double-bundle reconstruction techniques was inconclusive, although there was some limited evidence that double-bundle ACL reconstruction has some superior results in objective measurements of knee stability and protection against repeat ACL rupture or a new meniscal injury. An analysis of the physical differences between these two methods would help the medical community to come to a consensus with regards to the best ACL reconstruction technique. Therefore, the second objective of this project will be to mathematically compare the single-bundle and double-bundle reconstruction techniques in order to determine whether one of the techniques leads to areas with higher stress concentrations, for example. The modelled grafts will be compared to a model of a healthy ACL in order to determine which reconstruction technique best matches the original anatomical function of the ACL.

The final objective of the project is to determine the optimal techniques for ACL graft placement. In order to attach the graft, tunnels are drilled through the tibia and femur and the grafts are fixated with screws. We shall vary the angle of the tunnels and the area of the insertion site in our models in order to determine the optimal angle and location and will also focus on the mechanics of the grafts at the screw sites. Finally, we will determine the optimal graft tension and will investigate whether an optimal amount of tension and twist can be applied in order to tune the graft tendons to behave more like a healthy ACL.
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Organisation Website: http://www.man.ac.uk