Injury & Reconstruction Biomechanics Test Suite

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Bioengineering


The resilience of communities and productivity of the nation is compromised by ill health. Musculo-skeletal disorders are one of the biggest expenditures in the annual NHS budget at approximately £5.4 billion, not including the hidden costs associated with loss of independence. This burden will increase with time not only because 1 in 4 citizens in the UK is expected to be over 65 years of age by 2045, but also due to the rising expectations of activity. At the same time, trauma is a leading cause of death and disability. Approximately 5.8 million people die each year as a result of injuries; this accounts for 10% of the world's deaths, 32% more than the number of fatalities that result from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined. Trauma predominantly affects the young, who require swift return to physical activity and work, and interventions that will last them for life. Innovation in reconstruction of the musculoskeletal system at all stages of life is therefore paramount to ensure healthy, independent ageing.

Currently, research into the biomechanics and reconstruction of injury is conducted largely by analysing sensor data (force, displacement, strain, high-speed photography) during the event, and assessing tissue failure after the event through dissection and imaging. What occurs precisely, however, at the vicinity of interest during loading, both prior to and at the time of failure, cannot be characterised truly unless a methodology is developed to 'look inside' while the event occurs. As the events of interest have millisecond durations, the temporal resolution of data acquisition needs to be far higher than what is possible with conventional clinical imaging equipment.

We will combine high-speed photography with x-ray imaging in a way that it will enable us to perform radiostereometric analysis (RSA) with unprecedented sampling rates. This will be an internationally unique testing configuration allowing the system to be used with commercial and bespoke organ and tissue testing equipment. The Injury & Reconstruction Biomechanics Test Suite will enable experimental models of musculoskeletal trauma with detailed visualisation and quantification of the location and time of injury initiation and propagation, and so deliver a detailed picture of the mechanism of injury that we want to treat or mitigate. By enabling testing of prostheses and surgical interventions over a range of physiological, dynamic loading regimes, the Suite will allow for the quantification of the precise interaction between prostheses with human tissue and the evaluation of the efficacy of surgical interventions. This will not only promote further innovation in prostheses design and surgical techniques, but also the development of new, more appropriate and accurate qualification criteria for prostheses and surgical interventions. The Suite will enable the quantification of the motion and deformation of protective equipment, such as airbags or specialised clothing, and their precise interaction with the human body in unprecedented detail during the insult. This will inform the development of more biofidelic human surrogates for testing vehicles and protective equipment, provide robust data for the development and validation of computational models of human injury, and facilitate innovation in design of protective equipment for defence, automotive, and sport applications.

The Suite will be an internationally unique national facility that has the potential to spawn exciting transformational research in musculoskeletal, orthopaedic and injury biomechanics, injury prevention, and surgical reconstruction, and enable its translation into practice for the improvement of lifelong health.

Planned Impact

The main, ultimate beneficiary of the research enabled by the work conducted in the Suite is the injured patient, and society and economy through effective, definitive treatment of injury but also through prevention of injury.

The research enabled by the Suite is likely to contribute towards new surgical treatments, new medical devices and new protective systems. Better protection from, and better surgical reconstruction of, injury have a clear, direct economic and societal impact through reduction of healthcare costs and improvement in quality of life. The impact is not only due to the fewer injured people, but also due to the use of more efficient means of treatment and protection. The work can contribute to impact in the long term in government policy and international standards in orthopaedic, automotive and defence domains.

Therefore stakeholders of the research enabled by the Suite, aside from the injured patient, include the trauma and orthopaedic surgeons and related health professionals, the Armed Forces and the Home Office (including Security Services and Law Enforcement Officers), the medical device industry, the sports apparel industry, the automotive industry, the defence industry, the Government Departmens of Health and Transport, and the Ministry of Defence.

Dissemination of the outcomes of the research enabled by the Suite to the beneficiaries will be achieved primarily through the wide academic and professional network of the applicants. We have leadership roles in engineering and clinical national and international boards.Our annual networking event will also allow for direct communication of the research findings to stakeholders. These dissemination avenues are of course in addition to traditional 'passive' routes of dissemination, which include presentations at relevant events and conferences, and publication in peer-reviewed journals with appropriate readership. We will also engage with the wider public and involve them in our research mainly through our two flagship platforms, the Imperial Festival - an annual event open to the public and attended by the media which attracts approximately 12,000 visitors a year - and the Invention Rooms at the White City Campus whose aim is community innovation.


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Carpanen D (2021) Biomechanical evaluation of a tool-less external fixator in BMJ Military Health

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Draper D (2021) Multiscale Validation of Multiple Human Body Model Functional Spinal Units. in Journal of biomechanical engineering

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Nguyen TN (2020) The risk of fracture to the tibia from a fragment simulating projectile. in Journal of the mechanical behavior of biomedical materials

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Nguyen TN (2020) Mapping the Risk of Fracture of the Tibia From Penetrating Fragments. in Frontiers in bioengineering and biotechnology

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Nguyen TN (2022) Penetration of Energized Metal Fragments to Porcine Thoracic Tissues. in Journal of biomechanical engineering

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Rankin IA (2020) A New Understanding of the Mechanism of Injury to the Pelvis and Lower Limbs in Blast. in Frontiers in bioengineering and biotechnology

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Rankin IA (2021) The Injury Mechanism of Traumatic Amputation. in Frontiers in bioengineering and biotechnology

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Rankin IA (2021) Pelvic Protection Limiting Lower Limb Flail Reduces Mortality. in Journal of biomechanical engineering

Description workshop on constitutive models of soft tissue under impact 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Fellow researchers and automotive industry. Presented the capability of our Suite and how it's been used to date. Discussion on how others can use the facility. Discussion on what industry requirements are.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2022