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J Theor Biol. 2001 Sep 21;212(2):211-21.

Trabecular eccentricity and bone adaptation.

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Orthopaedic Biomechanics Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, 2166 Etcheverry Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-1740, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Theor Biol. 2003 Jul 21;223(2):267.


It is well established that bones functionally adapt by mechanisms that control tissue density, whole bone geometry, and trabecular orientation. In this study, we propose the existence of another such powerful mechanism, namely, trabecular eccentricity, i.e. non-central placement of trabecular bone within a cortical envelope. In the human femoral neck, trabecular eccentricity results in a thicker cortical shell on the inferior than superior aspect. In an overall context of expanding understanding of bone adaptation, the goal of this study was to demonstrate the biomechanical significance of, and provide a mechanistic explanation for, the relationship between trabecular eccentricity and stresses in the human femoral neck. Using composite beam theory, we showed that the biomechanical effects of eccentricity during a habitual loading situation were to increase the stress at the superior aspect of the neck and decrease the stress at the inferior aspect, resulting in an overall protective effect. Further, increasing eccentricity had a stress-reducing effect equivalent to that of increasing cortical thickness or increasing trabecular modulus. We conclude that an asymmetric placement of trabecular bone within a cortical bone envelope represents yet another mechanism by which whole bones can adapt to mechanical demands.

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