This paper explores the development of biomechanical models for evaluating a new class of passive mechanical implants for orthopedic surgery. The proposed implants take the form of passive engineered mechanisms, and will be used to improve the functional attachment of muscles to tendons and bone by modifying the transmission of forces and movement inside the body. Specifically, we present how two types of implantable mechanisms may be modeled in the open-source biomechanical software OpenSim. The first implant, which is proposed for hand tendon-transfer surgery, differentially distributes the forces and movement from one muscle across multiple tendons. The second implant, which is proposed for knee-replacement surgery, scales up the forces applied to the knee joint by the quadriceps muscle.
This paper’s key innovation is that such mechanisms have never been considered before in biomechanical simulation modeling and in surgery. When compared with joint function enabled by the current surgical practice of using sutures to make the attachment, biomechanical simulations show that the surgery with 1) the differential mechanism (tendon network) implant improves the fingers’ ability to passively adapt to an object’s shape significantly during grasping tasks (2.74× as measured by the extent of finger flexion) for the same muscle force, and 2) the force-scaling implant increases knee-joint torque by 84% for the same muscle force. The critical significance of this study is to provide a methodology for the design and inclusion of the implants into biomechanical models and validating the improvement in joint function they enable when compared with current surgical practice.