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A probabilistic failure risk approach to the problem of articular cartilage lubrication

Liao, J., Smith, D.W., Miramini, S., Gardiner, B.S. and Zhang, L. (2021) A probabilistic failure risk approach to the problem of articular cartilage lubrication. Computer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine, 203 . Art. 106053.

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Background and Objective

The geometrical and mechanical properties that characterise the cartilage contact gap are uncertain and spatially varied. To date the effects of such uncertainties on cartilage lubrication have not been explored. Using a probabilistic approach, the purpose of this study is to numerically investigate the influence of surficial cartilage glycoaminoglycan (GAG) content on joint lubrication behaviour. Gap asperity stiffness and polymer brush border (PBB) thickness are affected by the uncertainty of surficial GAG concentration, and so their correlated effects in maintaining hydrodynamic joint lubrication are investigated.


Correlated sampling data are first generated by Monte Carlo simulation. These data are used as inputs for the cartilage contact model, which includes three distinctive features of cartilage tissue (tension-compression nonlinearity, aggrecan dependent permeability and compressive modulus) and fluid flow resistance effects of PBB on cartilage surface. The degree of hydrodynamic lubrication after thirty minutes of constant loading is used as an indicator for assessing the lubrication performance at the contact interface.


The increase of PBB thickness with GAG concentration enhances the hydrodynamic lubrication component in the cartilage contact gap, whereas increasing the asperity stiffness with GAG concentration impairs hydrodynamic lubrication. GAG loss rate increases with the rise of GAG concentration. More aggrecan shedding through the surface could result in a thicker and denser PBB, and therefore enhance the lubrication performance in mixed-mode regime. On the other hand, higher GAG content makes the asperities stiffer, which may impede contact gap closure, and thus encourage gap fluid loss and impair the lubrication performance of cartilage.


The lubrication performance of cartilage varies with the physiological conditions of the joint. Since a range of variables are internally related, the outcomes on joint lubrication are difficult to predict. A probabilistic approach accounting for the uncertainties can potentially result in more accurate evaluations of joint lubrication performance.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Chemistry and Physics
Publisher: Elsevier
Copyright: © 2021 Elsevier B.V.
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