The extent to which increased intracortical porosity affects the fracture properties of aging and osteoporotic bone is unknown. Here, we report the development and application of a microcomputed tomography based finite element approach that allows determining the effects of intracortical porosity on bone fracture by blocking all other age-related changes in bone. Previously tested compact tension specimens from human tibiae were scanned using microcomputed tomography and converted to finite element meshes containing three-dimensional cohesive finite elements in the direction of the crack growth. Simulations were run incorporating age-related increase in intracortical porosity but keeping cohesive parameters representing other age-related effects constant. Additional simulations were performed with reduced cohesive parameters. The results showed a 6% decrease in initiation toughness and a 62% decrease in propagation toughness with a 4% increase in porosity. The reduction in toughnesses became even more pronounced when other age-related effects in addition to porosity were introduced. The initiation and propagation toughness decreased by 51% and 83%, respectively, with the combined effect of 4% increase in porosity and decrease in the cohesive properties reflecting other age-related changes in bone. These results show that intracortical porosity is a significant contributor to the fracture toughness of the cortical bone and that the combination of computational modeling with advanced imaging improves the prediction of the fracture properties of the aged and the osteoporotic cortical bone.
Keywords: finite element method; micro-computed tomography; fracture toughness; cortical bone; intracortical porosity