How morphology predicts mechanical properties of trabecular structures depends on intra-specimen trabecular thickness variations

G.H. Lenthe, van, H.W.J. Huiskes

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Two observations underlie this work. First, that the architecture of trabecular bone can accurately predict the mechanical stiffness characteristics of bone specimens when considering the combination of volume fraction and fabric, which is a measure of architectural anisotropy. Second, that the same morphological measures could not accurately predict the mechanical properties of porous structures in general. We hypothesize that this discrepancy can be explained by the special nature of trabecular bone as a structure in remodeling equilibrium relative to the external loads. We tested this hypothesis using a generic model of trabecular bone. Five series of 153 different architectures were created with this model. Each architecture was subjected to morphological analysis, and four different fabric measures were calculated to evaluate their effectiveness in characterizing the architecture. Relationships were determined relating morphology to the elastic constants. The quality of these relationships was tested by correlating the predicted elastic constants with those determined from finite element analysis. We found that the four fabric measures used could estimate the mechanical properties almost equally well. So the suggestion that fabric measures based on trabecular bone volume better represent the architecture than mean intercept length could not be affirmed. We conclude that for structures with equally sized elliptical voids the mechanical properties can be predicted well only if trabecular thickness variations within each structure are limited. These structures closely resemble previously developed models of trabecular bone. Furthermore, they are stiff in the principal fabric direction, hence, according to Cowin (J. Biomech. Eng. (108) (1986) 83), they are in remodeling equilibrium. These structures are also stiff over a large range of loading orientations, hence, are relatively insensitive to deviations in direction of loading.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1191-1197
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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