Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name



Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

King H. Yang


In cases of suspected child abuse with skeletal trauma, it is often the role of the injury biomechanist, forensic pathologist, clinical radiologist, and forensic anthropologist to determine the mechanism of injury when the child victims cannot speak for themselves. This is a challenging task, especially for the head, as comprehensive biomechanical data on skull fracture in infants and children do not currently exist, and frequently the determination regarding cause of injury is based on anecdotal evidence from the medical literature and unsubstantiated eyewitness accounts. The current process may result in unreliable autopsy interpretation and miscarriages of justice due to a lack of scientific verification in expert witness testimony. A method to examine the mechanisms of skeletal trauma, specifically skull fracture, in children would be beneficial in providing a solid biomechanical foundation to the forensic investigators in these child abuse cases.

Finite element (FE) computational modeling techniques can be used to simulate failure of materials, including biological materials such as bone. However the efficacy of these methods has not been thoroughly tested against a well-defined experimental dataset, particularly for the pediatric population. The specific aims of this study were: (1)To determine appropriate constitutive laws and material properties for the piglet skull and suture, (2) To predict skull fracture patterns in a piglet model using FE methods, and (3) To analyze the sensitivity and robustness of these FE techniques for reliable biomechanical and forensic analysis. Results highlight the ability of macro-scale blunt impact computational models to predict fracture initiation sites and the role of computational models in guiding future experimental work.