There is increasing evidence that, in addition to bone mass, bone microarchitecture and its mechanical load distribution are important factors for the determination of bone strength. Recently, it has been shown that new high-resolution imaging techniques in combination with new modeling algorithms based on the finite element (FE) method can account for these additional factors. Such models thus could provide more relevant information for the estimation of bone failure load. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether results of whole-bone micro-FE (μFE) analyses with models based on three-dimensional peripheral quantitative computer tomography (3D-pQCT) images (isotropic voxel resolution of 165 μm) could predict the failure load of the human radius more accurately than results with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) or bone morphology measurements. For this purpose, μFE models were created using 54 embalmed cadaver arms. It was assumed that bone failure would be initiated if a certain percentage of the bone tissue (varied from 1% to 7%) would be strained beyond the tissue yield strain. The external force that produced this tissue strain was calculated from the FE analyses. These predictions were correlated with results of real compression testing on the same cadaver arms. The results of these compression tests were also correlated with results of DXA and structural measurements of these arms. The compression tests produced Colles-type fractures in the distal 4 cm of the radius. The predicted failure loads calculated from the FE analysis agreed well with those measured in the experiments (R² = 0.75 p < 0.001). Lower correlations were found with bone mass (R² = 0.48, p < 0.001) and bone structural parameters (R² = 0.57 p < 0.001). We conclude that application of the techniques investigated here can lead to a better prediction of the bone failure load for bone in vivo than is possible from DXA measurements, structural parameters, or a combination thereof.
Keywords: Colles fracture; Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA); Peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT); Finite element (FE) method