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Bone. 1998 Jul;23(1):67-72.

Changes in the fracture toughness of bone may not be reflected in its mineral density, porosity, and tensile properties.

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Department of Orthopaedics, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, 78284-7774, USA.


Age-related changes in the skeleton often lead to an increase in the susceptibility of bone to fracture. Such changes most likely occur in the constituents of bone, namely, the mineral and organic phases, and in their spatial arrangement manifested as orientation and microstructure. In the past, however, bone loss or decline in bone mineral density has been considered to be the major contributing factor for the increased risk of bone fractures, and elastic modulus and ultimate strength have been commonly used to assess bone quality and strength. However, whether these properties provide sufficient information regarding the likelihood of bone to fracture remains debatable. Using a novel fracture toughness test, which measures the energy or stress intensity required to propagate a crack within a material, the objective of this study was to investigate if the mineral density and mechanical properties of bone can accurately predict bone fragility as measured by fracture toughness. Changes in fracture toughness (K(IC)), bone mineral density (BMD), elastic modulus (E), yield and ultimate strength (sigma y and sigma s), porosity (P0), and microhardness (Hv) of bone were examined as a function of age in a baboon model. With increasing age, the fracture toughness of bone decreased, and its microhardness increased. However, no significant changes were found in BMD, E, P0, sigma y, and sigma s as a function of age. In addition, simple regression analyses revealed no significant correlation between bone fracture toughness and the other parameters, except for microhardness of bone. The results of this study indicate that changes in bone fracture toughness may not be necessarily reflected in its mineral density, porosity, elastic modulus, yield strength, and ultimate strength.

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