Microdamage density has been shown to increase with age in trabecular bone and is associated with decreased fracture toughness. Numerous studies of crack propagation in cortical bone have been conducted, but data in trabecular bone is lacking. In this study, propagation of severe, linear, and diffuse damage was examined in trabecular bone cores from the femoral head of younger (61.3±3.1 years) and older (75.0±3.9 years) men and women. Using a two-step mechanical testing protocol, damage was first initiated with static uniaxial compression to 0.8% strain then propagated at a normalized stress level of 0.005 to a strain endpoint of 0.8%. Coupling mechanical testing with a dual-fluorescent staining technique, the number and length/area of propagating cracks were quantified. It was found that the number of cycles to the test endpoint was substantially decreased in older compared to younger samples (younger: 77,372±15,984 cycles; older: 34,944±11,964 cycles, p=0.06). This corresponded with a greater number of severely damaged trabeculae expanding in area during the fatigue test in the older group. In the younger group, diffusely damaged trabeculae had a greater damage area, which illustrates an efficient energy dissipation mechanism. These results suggest that age-related differences in fatigue life of human trabecular bone may be due to differences in propagated microdamage morphology.
Keywords: Bone; Cancellous; Fatigue; Microdamage; Aging