The rat forelimb compression model has been used widely to study bone response to mechanical loading. We used strain gages to assess load sharing between the ulna and radius in the forelimb of adult Fisher rats. We used histology and peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT) to quantify ulnar bone formation 12 days after in vivo fatigue loading. Lastly, we developed a finite element model of the ulna to predict the pattern of surface strains during compression. Our findings indicate that at the mid-shaft the ulna carries 65% of the applied compressive force on the forelimb. We observed large variations in fatigue-induced bone formation over the circumference and length of the ulna. Bone formation was greatest 1–2 mm distal to the mid-shaft. At the mid-shaft, we observed woven bone formation that was greatest medially. Finite element analysis indicated a strain pattern consistent with a compression–bending loading mode, with the greatest strains occurring in compression on the medial surface and lesser tensile strains occurring laterally. A peak strain of −5190με (for 13.3 N forelimb compression) occurred 1–2 mm distal to the mid-shaft. The pattern of bone formation in the longitudinal direction was highly correlated to the predicted peak compressive axial strains at seven cross-sections (r²=0.89, p=0.014). The in-plane pattern of bone formation was poorly correlated to the predicted magnitude of axial strain at 51 periosteal locations (r²=0.21, p<0.001), because the least bone formation was observed where tensile strains were highest. These findings indicate that the magnitude of bone formation after fatigue loading is greatest in regions of high compressive strain.
Bone formation; FEA—finite element analysis; Strain correlation; Rat ulnar compression model