Mechanical properties of cortical bone and their relationships with age, gender, composition and microindentation properties in the elderly

Mohammad J. Mirzaali, J. J. Schwiedrizk, Suwanwadee Thaiwichai, James P. Best, Johann Michler, Philippe K. Zysset, U. Wolfram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The growing incidence of skeletal fractures poses a significant challenge to ageing societies. Since a major part of physiological loading in the lower limbs is carried by cortical bone, it would be desirable to better understand the structure-mechanical property relationships and scale effects in this tissue. This study aimed at assessing whether microindentation properties combined with chemical and morphological information are usable to predict macroscopic elastic and strength properties in a donor- and site-matched manner. Specimens for quasi-static macroscopic tests in tension, compression, and torsion and microindentation were prepared from a cohort of 19 male and 20 female donors (46 to 99 years). All tests were performed under fully hydrated conditions. The chemical composition of the extra-cellular matrix was investigated with Raman spectroscopy. The results of the micro-mechanical tests were combined with morphological and compositional properties using a power law relationship to predict the macro-mechanical results. Microindentation properties were not gender dependent, remarkably constant over age, and showed an overall small variation with standard deviations of approximately 10 %. Similar results were obtained for chemical tissue composition. Macro-mechanical stiffness and strength were significantly related to porosity for all load cases (p<0.05). In case of macroscopic yield strain and work-to-failure this was only true in torsion and compression, respectively. The correlations of macro-mechanical with micro-mechanical, morphological, and chemical properties showed no significance for cement line density, mineralisation, or variations in the microindentation results and were dominated by porosity with a moderate explanatory power of predominately less than 50 %. The results confirm that age, with minor exceptions gender, and small variations in average mineralisation have negligible effect on the tissue microindentation properties of human lamellar bone in the elderly. Furthermore, our findings suggest that microindentation experiments are suitable to predict macroscopic mechanical properties in the elderly only on average and not on a one to one basis. The presented data may help to form a better understanding of the mechanisms of ageing in bone tissue and of the length scale at which they are active. This may be used for future prediction of fracture risk in the elderly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-211
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


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