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J Biomech. 1993 Aug;26(8):991-1000.

Trabecular bone modulus and strength can depend on specimen geometry.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Charles A. Dana Research Institute, Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, MA 02215.


We performed a series of uniaxial compression tests on wet bovine trabecular bone to compare both modulus and strength when measured using 2:1 aspect ratio (10 mm long, 5 mm diameter) cylinders (n = 30) and 5 mm cubes (n = 29). We also compared the correlation coefficients in the resulting modulus-density and strength-density regressions and the standard errors of the estimate. When comparing the mean values of modulus and strength for each group, the confounding variations in apparent density were accounted for with an analysis of covariance. The Fisher's Z transformation was used to compare the correlation coefficients statistically. Results from the analysis of covariance indicated that the modulus and strength of the cubes were higher by 36% (p < 0.01) and 18% (p < 0.05), respectively, with respect to the 2:1 cylinder values. The correlation coefficients in the modulus-density and strength-density regressions were not sensitive to the regression model (linear versus power law). However, correlation coefficients for both modulus-density and strength-density regressions were higher (p < 0.05) for the 2:1 cylinders (r = 0.90, modulus; r = 0.94, strength) than for the cubes (r = 0.57, modulus; r = 0.82, strength). In addition, the standard errors of the estimate in both modulus and strength were substantially lower for the 2:1 cylinders. These data indicate that both modulus and strength can depend on the specimen geometry when using conventional compression testing techniques. We conclude, therefore, that inter-study comparisons of modulus and strength may be invalid if these confounding effects of different specimen geometries are not addressed. Our data also indicate that density can better explain the observed variance in modulus and strength when 2:1 cylinders are used as opposed to cubes. Using this phenomenon as a rationale for choosing a standard specimen gometry, we recommend that the 2:1 cylinder be used as a standard specimen in studies designed to determine the effects of various treatments on the uniaxial compressive modulus and strength of trabecular bone.

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