Cortical bone can be modeled as a complex hierarchical composite interrelating both structure and material properties on four levels of structural organization: molecular, ultrastructural, microscopic, and macroscopic. In young animals, the microstructural systems are long parallel lamellar units, plexiform bone, which in older or more mature animals converts by internal remodeling into multiple concentric lamellar units, secondary osteons, forming haversian bone. Ultrasonic wave propagation measurements performed on both plexiform and haversian bone clearly show a definitive relationship with microstructure; haversian bone can be described as a transversely symmetric material whereas plexiform bone appears to be orthotropic in nature. The anisotropy of the elastic constants are found to reflect the tissue symmetry; moreover, plexiform bone is stiffer and more rigid in all directions than is haversian bone. Similar experiments were performed on osteoporotic and osteopetrotic bone. While the results for osteoporotic bone are understandable in terms of the increased porosity, the results for the osteopetrotic bone are anomalous with respect to its density. Since Wolff, the remodeling of bone has been interpreted as a way of altering the mechanical properties to suit some need. For haversian remodeling from plexiform bone, the argument that adaptation occurs to optimize properties requires additional clarification since haversian bone appears to have inferior mechanical properties to plexiform bone.
Keywords: Elastic constants; Plexiform bone; Haversian bone; Ultrasonic techniques; Internal remodeling