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J Biomech. 1999 Oct;32(10):1013-20.

Femoral strength is better predicted by finite element models than QCT and DXA.

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Henry Ford Hospital Diagnostic Radiology Research Lab, Detroit, MI 48202, USA.


Clinicians and patients would benefit if accurate methods of predicting and monitoring bone strength in-vivo were available. A group of 51 human femurs (age range 21-93; 23 females, 28 males) were evaluated for bone density and geometry using quantitative computed tomography (QCT) and dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Regional bone density and dimensions obtained from QCT and DXA were used to develop statistical models to predict femoral strength ex vivo. The QCT data also formed the basis of a three-dimensional finite element (FE) models to predict structural stiffness. The femurs were separated into two groups; a model training set (n = 25) was used to develop statistical models to predict ultimate load, and a test set (n = 26) was used to validate these models. The main goal of this study was to test the ability of DXA, QCT and FE techniques to predict fracture load non-invasively, in a simple load configuration which produces predominantly femoral neck fractures. The load configuration simulated the single stance phase portion of normal gait; in 87% of the specimens, clinical appearing sub-capital fractures were produced. The training/test study design provided a tool to validate that the predictive models were reliable when used on specimens with "unknown" strength characteristics. The FE method explained at least 20% more of the variance in strength than the DXA models. Planned refinements of the FE technique are expected to further improve these results. Three-dimensional FE models are a promising method for predicting fracture load, and may be useful in monitoring strength changes in vivo.

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