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Bone Mechanics Juliana Uribe Pérez



Bone anatomy
Types of bones
Bone growth and mineralization
Bone modeling and remodeling: Wolff’s law
Bone fractures
Experimental bone properties
Mechanical properties and relevant factors

Bone composition

Types of bones

Structure of long bones

• Epiphyses: consist of internal spongy bone covered by an outer layer of compact bone.
• The external surface of the bone is covered by the periosteum
• The internal surface is lined by a connective tissue membrane called the endosteum.

Short, flat and irregular bones

Those bones consist of thin plates of periosteum-covered compact bone on the outside, and
endosteum-covered spongy bone inside, which houses bone marrow between the

Microscopic anatomy of long bone

Circumferential lamellae are located just beneath the periosteum, extending around the entire
circumference of the bone, while interstitial lamellae lie between intact osteons, filling the spaces in

Spongy bone lacks osteons but has trabeculae that align along lines of stress, which contain irregular

Microscopic anatomy of long bone

The structural unit of compact bone is the osteon, or Haversian system, which consists of concentric
tubes of bone matrix (the lamellae) surrounding a central Haversian canal that serves as a passageway
for blood vessels and nerves.

Bone growth and mineralization

Bone growth: shape and length

Bone Remodeling: in adult skeletons, bone remodeling is balanced bone deposit and removal, bone
deposit occurs at a greater rate when bone is injured, and bone resorption allows minerals of degraded
bone matrix to move into the blood.

Imbalances of Bone

Osteomalacia: the bone is inadequately

mineralized (adults).

Rickets: inadequate mineralization in

children (insufficient calcium or vitamin D).

Osteoporosis: the rate of bone resorption

exceeds the rate of formation. Bone mass
is reduced and the bones become more
porous and lighter increasing the
likelihood of fractures.

Mechanobiology: bone structural adaptation

Culmann’s graphical statics analysis of the Wolff's depiction of the trabecular alignment in the
patterns of internal mechanical forces proximal femur.
(stresses) in a Fairbairn crane. The curved
column was under a distributed vertical
load from the top.

Mechanobiology: Wolff’s Law

Julius Wolff (1872): when loads are changed by trauma or change in activity, functional
remodeling reorients bone trabeculae so they align with the new principal stress axes

Remodeling is a continuous process:

The whole skeleton is changed each year.

Example of bone adaptation

Right and left arm of a tennis player

Example of bone adaptation

Stress shielding

Bone fractures
Bone Mechanics (Part II) Juliana Uribe Pérez


Basic mechanical properties

Bone properties: experimental determination
Bone properties (Young’s modulus and Poisson’s ratio)
Bone mechanics: key points

Basic Material Properties

Bone is a composite: mineral matrix + collagen fibers

Bone has organized microstructure: lamellar (layered), Haversian (tubular) and
trabecular (spongy, fabric-like)
Elastic moduli vary with type of loading: tension - compression, bending - shear
Elastic moduli vary with orientation: transverse vs. axial
Bone is anisotropic: requires more than two elastic constants

Anisotropy and heterogeneity

Cortical Bone Trabecular Bone
Greater strength and tensile-compressive moduli along Spatial heterogeneity in both density and architecture.
the longitudinal direction.
Variances in the modulus and strength of trabecular
bone can be explained by volume fraction.
Small decreases in density have severe consequences
for the load-bearing capacity of trabecular bone.

• collagen influences toughness of bone

• mineral contributes to bone stiffness and strength.

Anisotropy and heterogeneity

Cortical Bone Trabecular Bone
Collagen has an influence on mechanical
properties Anisotropy in microstructure AND in elastic
modulus and strength.
The ratios of elastic modulus and strength in
the superior–inferior direction to those in the
transverse direction in human vertebral bone
are 3.4 and 2.8, respectively.

Resistance in compression vs tension

Cortical Bone Trabecular Bone
Cortical bone is more resistant to compression Strength is greater in compression than in
than to traction, and is even weaker in the face tension and is lowest in shear. These
of shearing forces. differences decrease with decreasing
These differences decrease with decreasing apparent density.
apparent density. Resistance in compression: 1.5 - 9.3 MPa
Young's modulus: 10 MPa- 1,058 GPa
Density: 0.43 g/cm2

Stress-strain curve
Cortical Bone Trabecular Bone
Tension along longitudinal direction: a yield point
separates a linearly elastic region and a region of The stress–strain curve for trabecular bone does
linear plastic deformation. not exhibit a clear linear region nor a well-defined
Compression along longitudinal direction: the bone yield point.
hardens rapidly after yielding but then exhibits
“softening” before reaching failure at approximately Frequently treated as a linear elastic material. The
1.5% strain. yield point is defined by the 0.2% offset method.

The microstructural mechanisms involved in yield and post-

yield behaviors between loading modes and among loading
directions have not been well defined.

Viscoelasticity: Influence of strain rate

Cortical Bone Trabecular Bone

Strength and stiffness are dependent on Is technically nonlinearly viscoelastic.

the rate at which the loads are applied. Exhibits an initial rapid increase in strain
In normal physiological activities: strain followed by a steady-state regime with a
rates of 0.1% strain/s to 1.0% strain/s constant creep rate and, finally, another
Bone is more brittle at high strain rates. rapid increase in strain just before creep
High strain rates may also affect the
contribution of the bone marrow to the
mechanical behavior of trabecular bone.

Microdamage: deterioration in the tissue microstructure

Cortical Bone Trabecular Bone
Microdamage may appear as a debonding of Microscopic cracking within the trabeculae
the collagen–hydroxyapatite composite or as = large reductions in apparent modulus
slippage of the lamellae along the cement when overloading.
Microdamage increases with age.
Microdamage = decrease in modulus.
Fracture toughness: strong dependence on
Microcrack accumulation increases density.
exponentially with age in cortical bone and is
significantly higher in females than in males. Trabecular fractures in an osteopenic
woman’s vertebra. The fractures could
have resulted from excessive local

Bone properties: influence of scale

Cortical bone: composite of collagen molecules and nanocrystals of hydroxyapatite (HA).
Mechanical properties of stiffness, strength and toughness arise from both the characteristic
structure at the nanoscale, and at multiple length scales through the hierarchical architecture
of the bone.

Bone properties: influence of scale


Example: Nanoindentation on cortical bone.

Micrograph of a pediatric osteogenesis imperfecta (OI)

The five dark triangles represent sites

where nanoindentation

"Load v disp" by Original uploader was Jputhoff at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia.
Licensed under Public Domain via Commons -

Influence bone density and mineralization

Bone as homogeneous and isotropic material:

❖ Taking into account ash fraction:

bone volume fraction (BV/TV), alpha: ash


With α=0.7 and (BV/TV)=0.95 (95% for cortical bone), E=27.82GPa and σult = 266MPa
Cortical bone: 10 times more flexible tan steel, 4 times lighter, and similar σult !!

Influence of age
Cortical Bone Trabecular Bone
Modulus and strength decrease with age (reduces
Age=increase in the porosity, hypermineralization, 10% per decade)
microdamage accumulation, and adverse changes in
the collagen network. Apparent density decrease with age = anisotropy in
compressive strength also increases.
Strength under tension and compression reduces 2%
per decade after 20 years. Ultimate tensile strain
decreases 10% per decade (5% strain at 20 to 30
years, less than 1% strain at more than 80 years of
Changes in the collagen network =Fracture
toughness decreases significantly with aging.

Bone mechanical properties testing

3 Point flexural test

F: load at a given point on the load deflection curve, (N)

L: Support span, (mm)
F: load, (N), E: Young Modulus, (Pa) b: Width of test beam, (mm)
Ato= initial cross sectional area, (m^2) d: Depth of tested beam, (mm)
li: initial length, (m), lf: final length D: maximum deflection of the center of the beam, (mm)
m: slope of the initial straight-line portion of the load deflection curve, (N/mm)
"Beam 3pt" by AndrewRDawson - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons -

4 Point flexural test

Li = 1/2 L
"Beam 4pt" by AndrewRDawson - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons -

Bone properties given by several authors…

From SC Cowin, Chapter 2 in Handbook of Bioengineering, 1987


Bone properties given by several authors…

Cortical bone

Bone Mechanics: Key Points

During normal physiological activities, the bone tissues are subjected to strain rates of 0.1%
strain per second to 1.0% strain per second
Under physiological loads, cortical bone can be assumed Hookean elastic with a high elastic
modulus (10-20 GPa)
Cortical bone has greater mechanical properties than spongy bone
The microstructure of the bone composite makes the material response anisotropic.
Bone growth and remodeling is stress-adaptive
Wolff’s law described how trabecular bone reorients when principal stress axes change

Bone Mechanics: Key Points

Density of cortical bone depends on its porosity and the mineralisation of its material:
human approximately 1.9 g/cm^2

Higher cortical density = biomechanical properties improves.

Porosity and mineralisation explain 84% of the variation in stiffness in cortical bone.

The thickness and diameter of cortical bone are the main factors which affect its
biomechanics. An increase in either of these characteristics results in an increase in bone

The reduction in cortical thickness which happens with age, or in any osteodegenerative
disease, has associated with it an increase in the risk of fracture.

Bone properties depend on: age, sex, composition, scale, activity, water volume, density,
strain rate, and test (tension, compression, shear,..).

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