Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Liao, Jun

Committee Member

Christiansen, David

Committee Member

Williams, Lakiesha

Committee Member

Prabhu, Raj

Committee Member

Elder, Steve

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Biological Engineering

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


James Worth Bagley College of Engineering


Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering


Maternal trauma is the leading non-obstetric cause of maternal and fetal death. Because the anatomy of a pregnancy is distinct, and highly transient, the pregnant woman and her fetus are both susceptible to injuries which are not seen in the typical trauma patient. The pregnant uterus, the placenta, and the fetus are all relatively poorly supported, as compared with non-transient abdominal or thoracic organs, which can lead to injuries such as uterine rupture, placental abruption, and fetal trauma or death. The leading cause of maternal trauma is automotive collision, and other common causes include violence, falls, and other accidents. Automotive collision is often researched with more traditional physical experiments such as post-mortem crash testing, but this form of study is exceedingly difficult with the pregnant subject due to ethical and logistical issues. Computational simulations of automotive collisions have received much attention as a method of performing experiments without the use of physical specimens, and have been successful in modeling trauma. These simulations benefit from constitutive relationships which effectively describe the biomechanical and structural behaviors of biological tissues. Internal state variable models driven by microstructural data offer the potential for capturing a myriad of material behaviors intrinsic to many biological tissues. The studies presented include many advances in the existing research of maternal trauma. These studies include advanced biomechanical and microstructural characterization of the placenta, the organ commonly injured in maternal trauma, to capture stress state and strain rate dependencies, as well as microstructural evolution across stress states. The studies also describe the construction of a finite element mesh of a near-term pregnant woman and fetus from medical images. This finite element mesh was implemented in a simulation of maternal trauma based on one of the only post mortem studies of pregnant cadavers ever reported in the literature. The results are a significant advancement for trauma simulation research.