Previously developed experimental methods to characterize micro-structural tissue changes under planar mechanical loading may not be applicable for clinically relevant cases. Such limitation stems from the fact that soft tissues, represented by two-dimensional surfaces, generally do not undergo planar deformations in vivo. To address the problem, a method was developed to directly predict changes in the collagen fiber distribution of nonplanar tissue surfaces following 3D deformation. Assuming that the collagen fiber distribution was known in the un-deformed configuration via experimental methods, changes in the fiber distribution were predicted using 3D deformation. As this method was solely based on kinematics and did not require solving the stress balance equations, the computational efforts were much reduced. In other words, with the assumption of affine deformation, the deformed collagen fiber distribution was calculated using only the deformation gradient tensor (obtained via an in-plane convective curvilinear coordinate system) and the associated un-deformed collagen fiber distribution. The new method was then applied to the glenohumeral capsule during simulated clinical exams. To quantify deformation, positional markers were attached to the capsule and their 3D coordinates were recorded in the reference position and three clinically relevant joint positions. Our results showed that at 60deg of external rotation, the glenoid side of the posterior axillary pouch had significant changes in fiber distribution in comparison to the other sub-regions. The larger degree of collagen fiber alignment on the glenoid side suggests that this region is more prone to injury. It also compares well with previous experimental and clinical studies indicating maximum principle strains to be greater on the glenoid compared to the humeral side. An advantage of the new method is that it can also be easily applied to map experimentally measured collagen fiber distribution (obtained via methods that require flattening of tissue) to their in vivo nonplanar configuration. Thus, the new method could be applied to many other nonplanar fibrous tissues such as the ocular shell, heart valves, and blood vessels.

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