Knowledge of kinetics of fatigue crack growth of microcracks is important so as to understand the dynamics of bone adaptation, remodeling, and the etiology of fatigue-based failures of cortical bone tissue. In this respect, theoretical models (Taylor, J. Biomech., 31 (1998) 587–592; Taylor and Prendergast, Proc. Instn. Mech. Engrs. Part H 211 (1997) 369–375) of microcrack growth in cortical bone have predicted a decreasing microcrack growth rate with increasing microcrack length. However, these predictions have not been observed directly. This study investigated microcrack growth and arrest through observations of surface microcracks during cyclic loading (R=0.1, 50–80 MPa) of human femoral cortical bone (male, n=4, age range: 37–40 yr) utilizing a video microscopy system. The change in crack length and orientation of eight surface microcracks were measured with the number of fatigue cycles from four specimens. At the applied cyclic stresses, the microcracks propagated and arrested in generally less than 10,000 cycles. The fatigue crack growth rate of all microcracks decreased with increasing crack length following initial identification, consistent with theoretical predictions. The growth rate of the microcracks was observed to be in the range of 5×10−5 to 5×10−7 mm cycle-1. In addition, many of the microcracks were observed not to grow beyond 150 μm and a cyclic stress intensity factor of 0.5 MN m−3/2. The results of this study suggest that cortical bone tissue may resist fracture at the microscale by deceleration of fatigue crack growth and arrest of microcracks.
Keywords: Microcrack; Fatigue crack growth rate; Arrest; Cortical bone