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J Biomech. 2008;41(2):356-67. Epub 2007 Nov 19.

Subject-specific finite element models implementing a maximum principal strain criterion are able to estimate failure risk and fracture location on human femurs tested in vitro.

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  • 1Laboratorio di Tecnologia Medica, Istituti Ortopedici Rizzoli, Via di Barbiano 1/10, 40136 Bologna, Italy.


No agreement on the choice of the failure criterion to adopt for the bone tissue can be found in the literature among the finite element studies aiming at predicting fracture risk of bones. The use of stress-based criteria seems to prevail on strain-based ones, while basic bone biomechanics suggest using strain parameters to describe failure. The aim of the present combined experimental-numerical study was to verify, using subject-specific finite element models able to accurately predict strains, if a strain-based failure criterion could identify the failure patterns of bones. Three cadaver femurs were CT-scanned and subsequently fractured in a clinically relevant single-stance loading scenario. Load-displacement curves and high-speed movies were acquired to define the failure load and the location of fracture onset, respectively. Subject-specific finite element models of the three femurs were built from CT data following a validated procedure. A maximum principal strain criterion was implemented in the finite element models, and two stress-based criteria selected for comparison. The failure loads measured were applied to the models, and the computed risks of fracture were compared to the results of the experimental tests. The proposed principal strain criterion managed to correctly identify the level of failure risk and the location of fracture onset in all the modelled specimens, while Von Mises or maximum principal stress criteria did not give significant information. A maximum principal strain criterion can thus be defined a suitable candidate for the in vivo risk factor assessment on long bones.

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