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Bone. 2009 May;44(5):924-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2008.12.030. Epub 2009 Jan 14.

Density and architecture have greater effects on the toughness of trabecular bone than damage.

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  • 1Tissue Mechanics Laboratory, Interdisciplinary Bioengineering Program, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46656, USA.


Bone damage has been cited as an important aspect of bone quality. As such, understanding the effects of damage on the toughness of trabecular bone should provide insight into trabecular bone behavior during energy-limiting cases, such as falls. The effects of damage on the toughness of 35 bovine trabecular bone specimens were studied. Damage was induced by compressing the on-axis specimens to either 1.5% or 2.5% strain, followed by compression to 7.5% strain. The overloads resulted in significant decreases in both modulus and elastic toughness, with significantly greater decreases for the high-damage group than the low-damage group. Following damage, the elastic toughness of the high-damage group was also lower than the undamaged elastic toughness of the control group. In contrast, there was no detectable effect of damage level on toughness measured to 7.5% strain. Toughness increased linearly with BMD (R(2)=0.50) and by a power law relationship with volume fraction (BV/TV) (R(2)=0.65). Microarchitectural parameters also predicted the toughness in the absence of BV/TV or BMD. Toughness decreased with increasing slenderness ratio (Tb.Sp/Tb.Th) and structure model index (SMI) (R(2)=0.68, multiple regression), again independent of damage level, suggesting that failure is influenced by trabecular buckling. Taken together, the results show that normal variations in toughness due to density and architecture dominate the changes due to damage at the levels induced in this study. Moreover, measuring toughness is sensitive to the final strain, as differences found in the elastic and initial plastic regions were undetectable at higher strains. The self-limiting nature of microcracks in trabecular bone, or the trabecular architecture itself, may inhibit microcracks from propagating to macroscopic trabecular fractures, thereby limiting the effect of damage on toughness and making it difficult to detect in comparison to normal population variability.

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