This paper reports on the development of a theoretical model to simulate the growth and repair of microdamage in bone. Unlike previous theories, which use simplified descriptions of damage, this approach models each individual microcrack explicitly, and also models the basic multicellular units (BMUs) that repair cracks. A computer simulation has been developed that is capable of making a variety of predictions. Firstly, we can predict the mechanical behaviour of dead bone in laboratory experiments, including estimates of the number of cycles to failure and the number and length of microcracks during fatigue tests. Secondly, we can predict the results of bone histomorphometry, including such parameters as BMU activation rates and the changing ratio of primary to secondary bone during ageing. Thirdly, we can predict the occurrence of stress fractures in living bone: these occur when the severity of loading is so great that cracks grow faster than they can be repaired. Finally, we can predict the phenomenon of adaptation, in which bone is deposited to increase cortical thickness and thus prevent stress fractures. In all cases results compare favourably with experimental and clinical data.
Keywords: compact bone; fracture mechanics; microdamage; remodelling; stress fractures