The skeleton is continuously being renewed in the bone remodeling process. This prevents accumulation of damage and adapts the architecture to external loads. A side effect is a gradual decrease of bone mass, strength, and stiffness with age. We investigated the effects of bone loss on the load distribution and mechanical properties of cancellous bone using three-dimensional (3D) computer models. Several bone loss scenarios were simulated. Bone matrix was removed at locations of high strain, of low strain, and random throughout the architecture. Furthermore, resorption cavities and thinning of trabeculae were simulated. Removal of 7% of the bone mass at highly strained locations had deleterious effects on the mechanical properties, while up to 50% of the bone volume could be removed at locations of low strain. Thus, if remodeling would be initiated only at highly strained locations, where repair is likely needed, cancellous bone would be continuously at risk of fracture. Thinning of trabeculae resulted in relatively small decreases in stiffness; the same bone loss caused by resorption cavities caused large decreases in stiffness and high strain peaks at the bottom of the cavities. This explains that a reduction in the number and size of resorption cavities in antiresorptive drug treatment can result in large reductions in fracture risk, with small increases in bone mass. Strains in trabeculae surrounding a cavity increased by up to 1,000 microstrains, which could lead to bone apposition. These results give insight in the mechanical effects of bone remodeling and resorption at trabecular level.

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Journal of Bone and Mineral Research
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

van der Linden, J., Homminga, J., Verhaar, J., & Weinans, H. (2001). Mechanical consequences of bone loss in cancellous bone. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 457–465. doi:10.1359/jbmr.2001.16.3.457