Linear microcracks and diffuse damage (staining over a broad region) are two types of microscopic damage known to occur in vivo in human vertebral trabecular bone. These damage types might be associated with vertebral failure. Using microcomputed tomography and finite element analysis for specimens of cancellous bone, we estimated the stresses in the trabeculae of human vertebral tissue for inferosuperior loading. Microdamage was quantified histologically. The density of in vivo linear microcracks was, but the diffuse damage area was not, related to the estimates of von Mises stress distribution in the tissue. In vivo linear microcrack density increased with increasing coefficient of variation of the trabecular von Mises stress and with increasing average trabecular von Mises stress generated per superoinferior apparent axial stress. Nonlinear increase in linear crack density, similar to the increase of the coefficient of variation of trabecular shear stresses, with decreasing bone stiffness and bone volume fraction suggests that damage may accumulate rather rapidly in diseases associated with low bone density due to the dramatic increase of shear stresses in the tissue.
Keywords: Human vertebral cancellous bone, Trabecular shear stress, Finite element analysis, Linear microcracks, Diffuse damage, Microdamage, Bone volume fraction, BV/TV, Stiffness, Modulus