A three-dimensional (3D) contact finite element formulation has been developed for biological soft tissue-to-tissue contact analysis. The linear biphasic theory of Mow, Holmes, and Lai (1984, J. Biomech., 17(5), pp. 377–394) based on continuum mixture theory, is adopted to describe the hydrated soft tissue as a continuum of solid and fluid phases. Four contact continuity conditions derived for biphasic mixtures by Hou et al. (1989, ASME J. Biomech. Eng., 111(1), pp. 78–87) are introduced on the assumed contact surface, and a weighted residual method has been used to derive a mixed velocity-pressure finite element contact formulation. The Lagrange multiplier method is used to enforce two of the four contact continuity conditions, while the other two conditions are introduced directly into the weighted residual statement. Alternate formulations are possible, which differ in the choice of continuity conditions that are enforced with Lagrange multipliers. Primary attention is focused on a formulation that enforces the normal solid traction and relative fluid flow continuity conditions on the contact surface using Lagrange multipliers. An alternate approach, in which the multipliers enforce normal solid traction and pressure continuity conditions, is also discussed. The contact nonlinearity is treated with an iterative algorithm, where the assumed area is either extended or reduced based on the validity of the solution relative to contact conditions. The resulting first-order system of equations is solved in time using the generalized finite difference scheme. The formulation is validated by a series of increasingly complex canonical problems, including the confined and unconfined compression, the Hertz contact problem, and two biphasic indentation tests. As a clinical demonstration of the capability of the contact analysis, the gleno-humeral joint contact of human shoulders is analyzed using an idealized 3D geometry. In the joint, both glenoid and humeral head cartilage experience maximum tensile and compressive stresses are at the cartilage-bone interface, away from the center of the contact area.

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