Journal of Anatomy

Diffusion tensor imaging in biomechanical studies of skeletal muscle function

C. C. VAN DONKELAAR a1c1, L. J. G. KRETZERS a3, P. H. M. BOVENDEERD a3, L. M. A. LATASTER a2, K. NICOLAY a4, J. D. JANSSEN a1a3 and M. R. DROST a1a3
a1 Department of Movement Sciences, Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht (Carim), The Netherlands
a2 Department of Anatomy and Embryology, Maastricht University, The Netherlands
a3 Department of Mechanical Engineering, Technical University Eindhoven, The Netherlands
a4 Bijvoet Center, Utrecht University, The Netherlands


In numerical simulations of skeletal muscle contractions, geometric information is of major importance. The aim of the present study was to determine whether the diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) technique is suitable to obtain valid input with regard to skeletal muscle fibre direction. The accuracy of the DTI method was therefore studied by comparison of DTI fibre directions in the rat tibialis anterior muscle with fascicle striation patterns visible on high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and with fibre directions in an actual longitudinal section (ALS) through the same muscle. The results showed an excellent qualitative agreement between high-resolution MRI and DTI. Despite less accurate quantitative comparison with ALS, it was concluded that DTI does indeed measure skeletal muscle fibre direction. After the experiment, it was possible to determine an appropriate voxel size (0.9 mm3) that provided enough resolution and acceptable accuracy (5°) to use DTI fibre directions in biomechanical analyses. Muscle deformation during contraction, resulting from a finite element simulation with a mesh that was directly generated from the experimental data, has been presented.

(Accepted September 30 1998)

Key Words: MRI; muscle fibre orientation; finite element modelling.

c1 Correspondence to Dr C. C. van Donkelaar, Dept of Movement Sciences, Maastricht University, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands, Tel: +31-433881398; fax: +31-433670972; e-mail: