For understanding the fracture risk of vertebral bodies the macroscopic mechanical properties of the cancellous core are of major interest. Due to the hierarchical nature of bone, these depend in turn on the micromechanical properties of bone extracellular matrix which is at least linear elastic transverse isotropic. The experimental determination of local elastic properties of bone ex vivo necessitates a high spatial resolution which can be provided by depth-sensing indentation techniques. Using microindentation, this study investigated the effects of rehydration on the transverse isotropic elastic properties of vertebral trabecular bone matrix obtained from two orthogonal directions with a view to microanatomical location, age, gender, vertebral level and anatomic direction in a conjoint statistics.
Biopsies were gained from 104 human vertebrae (T1–L3) with a median age of 65 years (21–94). Wet elastic moduli were 29% lower (p < 0.05) than dry elastic moduli. For wet indentation the ratio of mean elastic moduli tested in axial to those tested in transverse indentation direction were 1.13 to 1.23 times higher than for dry indentation. The ratio of elastic moduli tested in the core to those tested in the periphery of trabeculae was 1.05 to 1.16 times higher when testing wet. Age and gender did not show any influence on the elastic moduli for wet and dry measurements. The correlation between vertebral level and elastic moduli became weaker after rehydration (pwet < 0.09, rwet² = 0.14) and (pdry < 0.01, rwet² = 0.38). Elastic and dissipated energies were similarly affected by rehydration compared to the elastic modulus. No significant difference in the energies could be found for gender (p > 0.05). Significant differences in the energies were found for age (p < 0.05) after rehydration.
Qualitative and quantitative insights into the transverse isotropic elastic properties of trabecular bone matrix under two testing conditions over a broad spectrum of vertebrae could be given. This study could help to further improve understanding of the mechanical properties of vertebral trabecular bone.