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Bone. 1987;8(2):79-85.

Biomechanical competence of vertebral trabecular bone in relation to ash density and age in normal individuals.


Cylindrical trabecular bone samples from the central part of the first lumbar vertebral body were obtained from 42 normal people (27 females and 15 males) aged 15-87 years and analyzed by a compression test in either vertical or horizontal direction. Maximum stress, maximum stiffness, energy absorption capacity, and strain at maximum stress (compressibility) were calculated from the load-deformation curves. The ash density of the samples was measured after incineration. From age 20 to 80 years, the decline (P less than 0.01) in ash density was 48-50% compared to a 75-80% decrease (P less than 0.001) in vertical stress, stiffness, and energy absorption capacity. Qualitatively similar age-related changes (P less than 0.01) were observed by horizontal compression, but the absolute values were smaller. In both directions, highly significant positive correlations (P less than 0.01) were observed between the biomechanical properties and ash density stress, stiffness and energy absorption capacity still showed significant decreases with age (P less than 0.01). The vertical maximum strain values, which increased (P less than 0.05) with age, were inversely related to the other biomechanical variables (P less than 0.05) and to the ash density (P less than 0.05). It is concluded from the study that the biomechanical competence of vertebral trabecular bone depends not only on bone mass (ash density) but also on the continuity of the trabecular lattice, which changes with increasing age.

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