Trabecular architecture is considered important in osteoporosis and has been quantified by a variety of mean parameters characteristic of a whole specimen. Variations within a specimen, however, have been mostly ignored. In this study, the theoretical effects of these intraspecimen variations in architecture on predicted mechanical properties were investigated through a three-dimensional finite element parameter study that simulated variations in trabecular thickness in a controlled manner. An irregularly spaced lattice of different sized rods was used to simulate trabecular bone in three distinct volume fraction ranges, representing young, middle-aged, and elderly vertebral bone. Beta distributions (a type of non-normal distribution) of trabecular thickness with coefficients of variation of either 25%, 40%, or 55% were applied to the rods in each model, and 225 simulations of uniaxial compression tests were performed to obtain modulus values. Percent modulus reductions of 22% and 43% were predicted when the intraspecimen coefficient of variation in trabecular thickness was increased from 25% to 40% and from 25% to 55%, respectively, for models of equal volume fraction. Furthermore, this trend was predicted to be independent of volume fraction. We conclude, therefore, that consideration of the intraspecimen trabecular thickness variation in conjunction with volume fraction may improve the ability to predict trabecular modulus compared with use of volume fraction alone. Further, the model suggests that if age, disease, or drug treatments increase trabecular thickness variation, this may be detrimental to mechanical properties.
Keywords: Architecture; Trabecular thickness; Osteoporosis; Mechanical behavior; Finite element