Knowledge of the influence of mineral variations (i.e., mineral heterogeneity) on biomechanical bone behavior at the trabecular level is limited. The aim of this study is to investigate how this material property affects the intratrabecular distributions of stress and strain in human adult trabecular bone. Two different sets of finite element (FE) models of trabecular samples were constructed; tissue stiffness was either scaled to the local degree of mineralization of bone as measured with microCT (heterogeneous) or tissue stiffness was assumed to be homogeneous. The influence of intratrabecular mineral heterogeneity was analyzed by comparing both models. Interesting effects were seen regarding intratrabecular stress and strain distributions. In the homogeneous model, the highest stresses were found at the surface with a significant decrease towards the core. Higher superficial stresses could indicate a higher predicted fracture risk in the trabeculae. In the heterogeneous model this pattern was different. A significant increase in stress with increasing distance from the trabecular surface was found followed by a significant decrease towards the core. This suggests trabecular bending during a compression. In both models a decrease in strain values from surface to core was predicted, which is consistent with trabecular bending. When mineral heterogeneity was taken into account, the predicted intratrabecular patterns of stress and strain are more consistent with the expected biomechanical behavior as based on mineral variations in trabeculae. Our findings indicate that mineral heterogeneity should not be neglected when performing biomechanical studies on topics such as the (long-term or dose dependent) effects of antiresorptive treatments.
Keywords: Biomechanics; Degree of mineralization; Finite element model; Mechanical loading; MicroCT