Multi-scale finite element modeling of Eustachian tube function: influence of mucosal adhesion.Int J Numer Method Biomed Eng. 2016 12; 32(12)IJ
The inability to open the collapsible Eustachian tube (ET) leads to the development of chronic Otitis Media (OM). Although mucosal inflammation during OM leads to increased mucin gene expression and elevated adhesion forces within the ET lumen, it is not known how changes in mucosal adhesion alter the biomechanical mechanisms of ET function. In this study, we developed a novel multi-scale finite element model of ET function in adults that utilizes adhesion spring elements to simulate changes in mucosal adhesion. Models were created for six adult subjects, and dynamic patterns in muscle contraction were used to simulate the wave-like opening of the ET that occurs during swallowing. Results indicate that ET opening is highly sensitive to the level of mucosal adhesion and that exceeding a critical value of adhesion leads to rapid ET dysfunction. Parameter variation studies and sensitivity analysis indicate that increased mucosal adhesion alters the relative importance of several tissue biomechanical properties. For example, increases in mucosal adhesion reduced the sensitivity of ET function to tensor veli palatini muscle forces but did not alter the insensitivity of ET function to levator veli palatini muscle forces. Interestingly, although changes in cartilage stiffness did not significantly influence ET opening under low adhesion conditions, ET opening was highly sensitive to changes in cartilage stiffness under high adhesion conditions. Therefore, our multi-scale computational models indicate that changes in mucosal adhesion as would occur during inflammatory OM alter the biomechanical mechanisms of ET function. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.