Results of recent imaging studies and theoretical models suggest that the superior femoral neck is a location of local weakness due to an age-related thinning of the cortex, and thus the site of hip fracture initiation. The purpose of this study was to experimentally determine the spatial and temporal characteristics of the macroscopic failure process during a simulated hip fracture that would occur as a result of a sideways fall. Twelve fresh frozen human cadaveric femora were used in this study. The femora were fractured in an apparatus designed to simulate a fall on the greater trochanter. Image sequences of the surface events related to the fractures were captured using two high-speed video cameras at 9111 Hz. The videos were analyzed with respect to time and load to determine the location and sequence of these events occurring in the proximal femur. The mean failure load was 4032 N (SD 370 N). The first surface events were identified in the superior femoral neck in eleven of the twelve specimens. Nine of these specimens fractured in a clear two-step process that initiated with a failure in the superior femoral neck, followed by a failure in the inferior femoral neck. This cadaveric model of hip fracture empirically confirms hypotheses that suggested that hip fractures initiate with a failure in the superior femoral neck where stresses are primarily compressive during a sideways fall impact, followed by a failure in the inferior neck where stresses are primarily tensile. Our results confirm the superolateral neck of the femur as an important region of interest for future hip fracture screening, prevention and treatment research.
Keywords: Hip fracture; Biomechanical testing; Ex vivo tests; Fracture mechanism; Bone