An integrated inverse model-experimental approach to determine soft tissue three-dimensional constitutive parameters: application to post-infarcted myocardium.
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Knowledge of the complete three-dimensional (3D) mechanical behavior of soft tissues is essential in understanding their pathophysiology and in developing novel therapies. Despite significant progress made in experimentation and modeling, a complete approach for the full characterization of soft tissue 3D behavior remains elusive. A major challenge is the complex architecture of soft tissues, such as myocardium, which endows them with strongly anisotropic and heterogeneous mechanical properties. Available experimental approaches for quantifying the 3D mechanical behavior of myocardium are limited to preselected planar biaxial and 3D cuboidal shear tests. These approaches fall short in pursuing a model-driven approach that operates over the full kinematic space. To address these limitations, we took the following approach. First, based on a kinematical analysis and using a given strain energy density function (SEDF), we obtained an optimal set of displacement paths based on the full 3D deformation gradient tensor. We then applied this optimal set to obtain novel experimental data from a 1-cm cube of post-infarcted left ventricular myocardium. Next, we developed an inverse finite element (FE) simulation of the experimental configuration embedded in a parameter optimization scheme for estimation of the SEDF parameters. Notable features of this approach include: (i) enhanced determinability and predictive capability of the estimated parameters following an optimal design of experiments, (ii) accurate simulation of the experimental setup and transmural variation of local fiber directions in the FE environment, and (iii) application of all displacement paths to a single specimen to minimize testing time so that tissue viability could be maintained. Our results indicated that, in contrast to the common approach of conducting preselected tests and choosing an SEDF a posteriori, the optimal design of experiments, integrated with a chosen SEDF and full 3D kinematics, leads to a more robust characterization of the mechanical behavior of myocardium and higher predictive capabilities of the SEDF. The methodology proposed and demonstrated herein will ultimately provide a means to reliably predict tissue-level behaviors, thus facilitating organ-level simulations for efficient diagnosis and evaluation of potential treatments. While applied to myocardium, such developments are also applicable to characterization of other types of soft tissues.