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Theses Doctoral

Biomechanical Simulations of Human Pregnancy: Patient-Specific Finite Element Modeling

Westervelt, Andrea Rae

Preterm birth (PTB) is the leading cause of childhood death and effects 10% of babies worldwide. First-time diagnosis is difficult, and as many as 95% of all PTBs are intractable to current therapies. The processes of both preterm labor and normal parturition are poorly understood, in part because pregnancy is a protected environment where experimentation contains the risk of causing harm to the gestation and fetus. This proposes the need for non-invasive investigations to understand both normal and high-risk pregnancies. Furthermore, each pregnancy can vary significantly which adds the complex need for patient-specific investigations.
To address this need, we propose the development of parameterized ultrasound-based finite element analyses to study the mechanics of the womb. As a first step, this dissertation work conducts sensitivity analyses on cervical, uterine, and fetal membrane parameters as well as model boundary conditions to determine which factors have the greatest impact on cervical tissue stretch. The effects of the range of patient geometries and material properties are reported. Findings show that a soft and short cervix result in greatest stretch at the internal os, and fetal membrane detachment increases cervical stretch.
Additionally, patient-specific finite element analyses are performed on low- and high-risk cohorts and results between the two are compared. Patient geometries are documented at various gestational timepoints, and the effect of a cervical pessary is determined based on changes in cervical geometry and stiffness. Findings showed that a soft cervix correlates with sooner delivery, and that high pessary placement is ideal to decrease stretch at the internal os.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Mechanical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Myers, Kristin M.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 30, 2019