Finite element (FE) analysis based on quantitative computed tomography (QCT) images is an emerging tool to estimate bone strength in a specific patient or specimen; however, it is limited by the computational power required and the associated time required to generate and solve the models. Thus, our objective was to develop a fast, validated method to estimate whole bone structural stiffness and failure load in addition to a sensitivity analysis of varying boundary conditions. We performed QCT scans on twenty fresh-frozen proximal femurs (age: 77±13 years) and mechanically tested the femurs in a configuration that simulated a sideways fall on the hip. We used custom software to generate the FE models with boundary conditions corresponding to the mechanical tests and solved the linear models to estimate bone structural stiffness and estimated failure load. For the sensitivity analysis, we varied the internal rotation angle of the femoral neck from −30° to 45° at 15° intervals and estimated structural stiffness at each angle. We found both the FE estimates of structural stiffness (R²=0.89, p<0.01) and failure load (R²=0.81, p<0.01) to be in high agreement with the values found by mechanical testing. An important advantage of these methods was that the models of approximately 500,000 elements took less than 11 min to solve using a standard desktop workstation. In this study we developed and validated a method to quickly and accurately estimate proximal femur structural stiffness and failure load using QCT-driven FE methods.
Bone strength; Finite element analysis; Computed tomography; Proximal femur