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A finite element model study to find the major anatomical influences on transcutaneous electrical stimulation


A. Kuhn, Gian Andri Rauch, T. Keller, M. Morari, V. Dietz

ZNZ Symposium, Zurich, Switzerland, pp. 84

In transcutaneous electrical stimulation, pairs of electrodes are placed on the human body in order to apply current pulses. The electrical current elicits action potentials in the nerves, which lead to muscle contraction. Clinical trials show that different people do not have the same activation current in order to get the same muscle activation. We use finite element (FE) modeling in order to assess the influence of the human anatomy on electrical stimulation. Possible influences are the location of the nerve, the thickness of the different tissue layers, and geometry of bone and muscles etc. Using a geometrical model (concentric cylinders) it was found that only the fat thickness has an influence when looking at the skin and fat properties and skin and fat thicknesses. Further investigations showed that the main reason for the change was not the fat thickness but the nerve depth, which is also changing for different fat thicknesses. In a second step a realistic FE model was determined from segmented MRI data. The MRI scans were performed on three people’s forearms. The influence from inhomogeneities was investigated in order to find out how much detail has to be included in the geometry of the FE model. We found that the influence from bone on a nerve fiber can be assumed to be negligible if there is at least a distance of 0.5 cm between nerve and bone even though bone has a much higher resistance than muscle. The major influence on the activation was found to be the depth of the nerve and the second largest came from the fat layer thickness. By comparing the geometrical to the realistic model it was found that for general investigations (e.g. optimize electrode shape) it is sufficient to approximate the arm with a multiple layer cylindrical model.


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% Autogenerated BibTeX entry
@InProceedings { KuhEtal:2005:IFA_2249,
    author={A. Kuhn and Gian Andri Rauch and T. Keller and M. Morari and V. Dietz},
    title={{A finite element model study to find the major anatomical
	  influences on transcutaneous electrical stimulation}},
    booktitle={ZNZ Symposium},
    address={Zurich, Switzerland},
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