Finite element (FE) models are often used to model bone failure. However, no failure theory for bone has been validated at this time. In this study, we examined the performance of nine stress- and strain-based failure theories, six of which could account for differences in tensile and compressive material strengths. The distortion energy, Hoffman and a strain-based Hoffman analog, maximum normal stress, maximum normal strain, maximum shear strain, maximum shear stress (τmax), Coulomb–Mohr, and modified Mohr failure theories were evaluated using automatically generated, computed tomographic scan-based FE models of the femur. Eighteen matched pairs of proximal femora were examined in two load configurations, one approximating joint loading during single-limb stance and one simulating impact from a fall. Mechanical testing was performed to assess model and failure theory performance in the context of predicting femoral fracture load. Measured and FE-computed fracture load were significantly correlated for both loading conditions and all failure criteria (p≤0.001). The distortion energy and τmax failure theories were the most robust of those examined, providing the most consistently strong FE model performance for two very different loading conditions. The more complex failure theories and the strain-based theories examined did not improve performance over the simpler distortion energy and τmax theories, and often degraded performance, even when differences between tensile and compressive failure properties were represented. The relatively strong performance of the distortion energy and τmax theories supports the hypothesis that shear/distortion is an important failure mode during femoral fracture.
Keywords: Hip fracture; Osteoporosis; Finite element; Femur; Bone strength