In this study, we investigate if finite element (FE) analyses of human trabecular bone architecture based on 168 microm images can provide relevant information about the bone mechanical characteristics. Three human trabecular bone samples, one taken from the femoral head, one from the iliac crest, and one from the lumbar spine, were imaged with micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) using a 28 microm resolution. After reconstruction the resolution was coarsened to 168 microm. First, all reconstructions were thresholded and directly converted to FE-models built of hexahedral elements. For the coarser resolutions of two samples, this resulted in a loss of trabecular connections and a subsequent loss of stiffness. To reduce this effect, a tetrahedral element meshing based on the marching cubes algorithm, as well as a modified hexahedron meshing, which thresholds the image such that load carrying bone mass is preserved, were employed. For each sample elastic moduli and tissue Von Mises stresses of the three different 168 microm models were compared to those from the hexahedron 28 microm model. For one sample the hexahedron meshing at 168 microm produced excellent results. For the other two samples the results obtained from the hexahedral models at 168 microm resolution were poor. Considerably better results were attained for these samples when using the mass-compensated or tetrahedron meshing techniques. We conclude that the accuracy of the FE-models at 168 microm strongly depends on the bone morphology, in particular its trabecular thickness. A substantial loss of trabecular connections during the hexahedron meshing process indicates that poor FE results will be obtained. In this case the tetrahedron or mass-compensated hexahedron meshing techniques can reduce the loss of connections and produce better results than the plain hexahedron meshing techniques.

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Journal of Biomechanics
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Ulrich, D., van Rietbergen, B., Weinans, H., & Rüegsegger, P. (1998). Finite element analysis of trabecular bone structure: a comparison of image-based meshing techniques. Journal of Biomechanics, 31(12), 1187–1192. doi:10.1016/S0021-9290(98)00118-3