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J Bone Miner Res. 1992 Dec;7 Suppl 2:S437-44.

Effect of bone size, not density, on the stiffness of the proximal part of normal and osteoporotic human femora.

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Laboratory for Experimental Surgery, AO Research Center, Davos-Platz, Switzerland.


Proximal femur fractures in the elderly lead to a high rate of hospitalization. In studying the operative treatment of such fractures, it is first necessary to understand the relationship between the morphologic properties of this part of the femur (related to both geometry and density) and its mechanical properties. Numerous investigations showed that femoral strength correlates with bone mass; however, the dimension of the bones was not taken into account. We measured the relationship between the stiffness of the proximal femur under physiologic load and its geometry and density. Conventional x-rays and quantitative computed tomography (QCT) were carried out on pairs of human cadaver femora. Eight pairs were instrumented with strain gauges. Bones were subjected to an eccentric load that simulates moderate weight bearing (single-leg stance), and the strain parallel to the bone axis was plotted as a function of the load applied. An apparent bone stiffness was calculated as the ratio between the strain gradient within the section and the load applied. Strong correlation was found between x-ray densitometry and QCT. The bone stiffness also correlates strongly with the geometry (area) and slightly with bone mass; however, an unexpectedly low correlation was found between stiffness and density. We chose stiffness as a mechanical parameter (not strength) because it describes the "normal" bone behavior under load. Our results clearly demonstrate that the cross-sectional size of the bones must be taken into account when establishing the relationship between the mechanical characteristics of the bone and its morphology. In accordance with previous predictions, our results support that bone loss due to osteoporosis is compensated for by an increase in bone diameter.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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