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J Biomech. 2011 Nov 10;44(16):2747-54. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2011.09.002. Epub 2011 Sep 25.

Shear strength and toughness of trabecular bone are more sensitive to density than damage.

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Tissue Mechanics Laboratory, Bioengineering Graduate Program and Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, University of Notre Dame, 147 Multidisciplinary Research, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA.


Microdamage occurs in trabecular bone under normal loading, which impairs the mechanical properties. Architectural degradation associated with osteoporosis increases damage susceptibility, resulting in a cumulative negative effect on the mechanical properties. Treatments for osteoporosis could be targeted toward increased bone mineral density, improved architecture, or repair and prevention of microdamage. Delineating the relative roles of damage and architectural degradation on trabecular bone strength will provide insight into the most beneficial targets. In this study, damage was induced in bovine trabecular bone samples by axial compression, and the effects on the mechanical properties in shear were assessed. The damaged shear modulus, shear yield stress, ultimate shear stress, and energy to failure all depended on induced damage and decreased as the architecture became more rod-like. The changes in ultimate shear strength and toughness were proportional to the decrease in shear modulus, consistent with an effective decrease in the cross-section of trabeculae based on cellular solid analysis. For typical ranges of bone volume fraction in human bone, the strength and toughness were much more sensitive to decreased volume fraction than to induced mechanical damage. While ultimately repairing or avoiding damage to the bone structure and increasing bone density both improve mechanical properties, increasing bone density is the more important contributor to bone strength.

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