Conceptually, the elastic characteristics of cancellous bone could be predicted directly from the trabecular morphology — or architecture — and by the elastic properties of the tissue itself. Although hardly any experimental evidence exists, it is often implicitly assumed that tissue anisotropy has a negligible effect on the apparent elastic properties of cancellous bone. The question addressed in this paper is whether this is actually true. If it is, then micromechanical finite element analysis (μ-FEA) models, representing trabecular architecture, using an ‘effective isotropic tissue modulus’ should be able to predict apparent elastic properties of cancellous bone. To test this, accurate multi-axial compressive mechanical tests of 29 whale bone specimens were simulated with specimen-specific μ-FEA computer models built from true three-dimensional reconstructions. By scaling the μ-FEA predictions by a constant tissue modulus, 92% of the variation of Young's moduli determined experimentally could be explained. The correlation even increased to 95% when the μ-FEA moduli were scaled to the isotropic tissue moduli of individual specimens. Excellent agreement was also found in the elastic symmetry axes and anisotropy ratios. The prediction of Poisson's ratios was somewhat less precise at 85% correlation. The results support the hypothesis; for practical purposes, the concept of an ‘effective isotropic tissue modulus’ concept is a viable one. They also suggest that the value of such a modulus for individual cases might be inferred from the average tissue density, hence the degree of mineralization. Future studies must clarify how specific the tissue modulus should be for different types of bone if adequate predictions of elastic behavior are to be made in this way.
Keywords: Cancellous bone; Bone mechanics; Finite-element analysis; Tissue modulus