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J Biomech. 2011 Jun 3;44(9):1660-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2011.03.025. Epub 2011 Apr 8.

Variability of tissue mineral density can determine physiological creep of human vertebral cancellous bone.

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Division of Orthodontics, College of Dentistry, The Ohio State University, 4088 Postle Hall, 305 West 12th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Creep is a time-dependent viscoelastic deformation observed under a constant prolonged load. It has been indicated that progressive vertebral deformation due to creep may increase the risk of vertebral fracture in the long-term. The objective of this study was to examine the relationships of creep with trabecular architecture and tissue mineral density (TMD) parameters in human vertebral cancellous bone at a physiological static strain level. Architecture and TMD parameters of cancellous bone were analyzed using microcomputerized tomography (micro-CT) in specimens cored out of human vertebrae. Then, creep and residual strains of the specimens were measured after a two-hour physiological compressive constant static loading and unloading cycle. Creep developed (3877 ± 2158 με) resulting in substantial levels of non-recoverable post-creep residual strain (1797 ± 1391 με). A strong positive linear correlation was found between creep and residual strain (r = 0.94, p < 0.001). The current results showed that smaller thickness, larger surface area, greater connectivity of trabeculae, less mean tissue mineral density (TMD, represented by gray levels) and higher variability of TMD are associated with increasing logarithmic creep rate. The TMD variability (GL(COV)) was the strongest correlate of creep rate (r = 0.79, p < 0.001). This result suggests that TMD variability may be a useful parameter for estimating the long-term deformation of a whole vertebral body. The results further suggest that the changes in TMD variability resulting from bone remodeling are of importance and may provide an insight into the understanding of the mechanisms underlying progressive failure of vertebral bodies and development of a clinical fracture.

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