Cancellous bone architecture and mechanics are intimately related. The trabecular architecture of cancellous bone is considered determined by its mechanical environment (Wolff's law), and the mechanical properties of cancellous bone are inversely determined by the trabecular architecture and material properties. Much effort has been spent in expressing these relations, but the techniques and variables necessary for this have not been fully identified. it is obvious, however, that some measure of architectural anisotropy (fabric) is needed. Within the last few years, volume-based measures of fabric have been introduced as alternatives to the mean intercept length method, which has some theoretical problems. This paper seeks to answer which of four different fabric measures best predicts finite element calculated mechanical anisotropy directions.
Twenty-nine cancellous bone specimens were three-dimensionally reconstructed using the automated serial sectioning technique. A series of large-scale finite-element analyses were performed on each of the three-dimensional reconstructions to calculate the compliance matrix for each specimen, from which the mechanical principal directions were derived. The architcctural anisotropy was determined in three-dimensional space for each specimen using mean intercept length (MIL), volume orientation (VO), star volume distribution (SVD) and star length distribution (SLD). Each of the architectural anisotropy results were expressed by a fabric tensor. Architectural main directions were determined from the fabric tensors and compared with the FE-calculated mechanical anisotropy directions.
All architectural measures predicted the mechanical main directions rather well, which supports the assumption that mechanical anisotropy directions are aligned with fabric directions. MIL showed a significant, though very small (1.4°), deviation from the primary mechanical direction. VO had difficulty in determining secondary and tertiary mechanical directions; its mcan deviation was 8.9°. SVD and SLD provided marginally better predictors of mechanical anisotropy directions than MIL and VO.