A Hybrid Method for Computing Achilles Tendon Moment Arm Using Ultrasound and Motion Analysis

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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In this article, we outline a method for computing Achilles tendon moment arm. The moment arm is computed from data collected using two reliable measurement instruments: ultrasound and video-based motion capture. Ultrasound is used to measure the perpendicular distance from the surface of the skin to the midline of the tendon. Motion capture is used to determine the perpendicular distance from the bottom of the probe to the ankle joint center. The difference between these two measures is the Achilles tendon moment arm. Unlike other methods, which require an angular change in joint position to approximate the moment arm, the hybrid method can be used to compute the moment arm directly at a specific joint angle. As a result, the hybrid method involves fewer error-prone measurements and the moment arm can be computed at the limits of the joint range of motion. The method is easy to implement and uses modalities that are less costly and more accessible than MRI. Preliminary testing using a lamb shank as a surrogate for a human ankle revealed good accuracy (3.3% error). We believe the hybrid method outlined here can be used to measure subject-specific moment arms in vivo and thus will potentially benefit research projects investigating ankle mechanics.

The authors are with the Center for Biomedical Engineering Research, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Delaware, Newark, DE.