Variations in yield strains for trabecular bone within a specific anatomic site are only a small fraction of the substantial variations that exist for elastic modulus and strength, and yet the source of this uniformity is not known. Our goal was to investigate the underlying mechanisms by using high-resolution, materially nonlinear finite element models of 12 human femoral neck trabecular bone specimens. The finite element models, used to obtain apparent yield strains in both tension and compression, assumed that the tissue-level yield strains were the same across all specimens. Comparison of the model predictions with the experimental data therefore enabled us to isolate the combined roles of volume fraction and architecture from the role of tissue material properties. Results indicated that, for both tensile and compressive loading, natural variations in volume fraction and architecture produced a negligible coefficient of variation (less than 3%) in apparent yield strains. Analysis of tissue-level strains showed that while bending of individual trabeculae played only a minor role in the apparent elastic behavior, the combined effects of this bending and tissue-level strength asymmetry produced apparent-level failure strains in compression that were 14% lower than those at the tissue level. By contrast, tissue and apparent-level yield strains were equivalent for tensile loading. We conclude that the uniformity of apparent yield strains is primarily the result of the highly oriented architecture that minimizes bending. Most of the variation that does occur is the result of the non-uniformity of the tissue-level yield strains.
Keywords: Cancellous bone; Finite element modeling; Bone mechanics; Architecture; Cellular solids