The apparent properties of cancellous bone are determined by a combination of both hard tissue properties and microstructural organization. A method is desired to extract the underlying hard tissue properties from simple mechanical tests, free from the complications of microstructure. It has been suggested that microCT voxel-based large-scale finite element models could be employed to accomplish this goal (van Rietbergen et al., 1995, Journal of Biomechanics, 28, 69–81). This approach has recently been implemented and it is becoming increasingly popular as finite element models increase in size and sophistication (Fyhrie et al., 1997, Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Orthopaedic Research Society, San Francisco, CA, p. 815; van Rietbergen et al., 1997, Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Orthopaedic Research Society, San Francisco, CA, p. 62). However, no direct quantitative measurements of the accuracy of this method applied to porous structures such as cancellous bone have been made. This project demonstrates the feasibility of this approach by quantifying its best-case accuracy in determining the trabecular hard tissue modulus of analogues fabricated of a material with known material properties determined independently by direct testing. In addition we were able to assess the impact of mesh size and boundary conditions on accuracy. We found that the assumption of a frictionless boundary condition in the parallel plate compression loading configuration was a significant source of error that could be overcome with the use of rigid end-caps similar to those used by Keaveny et al. (1997 Journal of Orthopaedic Research, 15(1), 101–110). In conclusion, we found that this approach is an effective method for determining the average trabecular hard tissue properties of human cancellous bone with an expected practical accuracy level better than 5%.
Keywords: Finite element analysis; Trabecular bone; Micro-CT imaging; Large-scale modeling; Mechanical properties