Understanding Brachial Plexus Injury and Shoulder Function through Integrated Musculoskeletal Modeling

Date(s) - 02/27/2023
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Communicore, C1-17

Katherine R. Saul, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, North Carolina State University

Brachial plexus birth injury (BPBI) is the most common nerve injury among children. The glenohumeral joint of affected children can undergo severe bone deformity and muscle contracture, depending on location of the injury relative to the dorsal root ganglion. Because the primary drivers of deformity are unclear, there is a lack of consistent guidelines for clinicians regarding treatment timing and highly variable functional outcomes following treatment. I will present our recent work in shoulder anatomy and function post-BPBI, in which we 1) characterize muscle and bone structure in a rat model of nerve injury, and 2) apply computational simulation of the developing shoulder to investigate whether observed changes to muscle mass and optimal muscle length over time following BPBI provide a mechanically-driven explanation for postural and bone deformity. I will also describe our computational framework integrating musculoskeletal modeling to represent muscle changes over time and finite element modeling to simulate bone growth in response to mechanical and biological stimuli, and will touch on other applications in our group of modeling approaches.


Dr. Saul is a Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. The research performed in her Movement Biomechanics Laboratory aims to improve treatment for upper limb neuromusculoskeletal conditions by providing biomechanical insight to clinicians regarding the effects of neuromuscular and orthopaedic injury, predicting outcomes of surgical interventions, and understanding healthy and impaired motor control. Dr. Saul is a Fellow of the American Society of Biomechanics, a KEEN Fellow of the Kern Family Foundation, and an OpenSim Fellow of the National Center for Simulation in Rehabilitation Research. She has served on the Executive Board of the American Society of Biomechanics as Meeting Chair, Diversity Task Force Chair, and Secretary, and as Associate Editor of the Journal of Applied Biomechanics and PLOS ONE. Dr. Saul also served as a UNC System Academic Affairs Faculty Fellow from 2019-2021 exploring digital learning initiatives. Other honors include being named the American Society of Biomechanics Predoctoral Young Scientist (2005), Medtronic Foundation Graduate Fellow, Whitaker Foundation Graduate Fellow, and NCAA Woman of the Year (Rhode Island, 2000). She has received the Outstanding Teaching Award at NCSU at the department, college, university, and Alumni Association levels. Dr. Saul received her ScB in Engineering from Brown University in 2000, and her MS and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. She was previously an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Orthopaedic Surgery at Wake Forest School of Medicine and has been at NCSU since 2013