Single-trabecula building block for large-scale finite element models of cancellous bone

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Recent development of high-resolution imaging of cancellous bone allows finite element (FE) analysis of bone tissue stresses and strains in individual trabeculae. However, specimen-specific stress/strain analyses can include effects of anatomical variations and local damage that can bias the interpretation of the results from individual specimens with respect to large populations. This study developed a standard (generic) ‘building-block’ of a trabecula for large-scale FE models. Being parametric and based on statistics of dimensions of ovine trabeculae, this building block can be scaled for trabecular thickness and length and be used in commercial or custom-made FE codes to construct generic, large-scale FE models of bone, using less computer power than that currently required to reproduce the accurate micro-architecture of trabecular bone. Orthogonal lattices constructed with this building block, after it was scaled to trabeculae of the human proximal femur, provided apparent elastic moduli of ∼ 150 MPa, in good agreement with experimental data for the stiffness of cancellous bone from this site. Likewise, lattices with thinner, osteoporotic-like trabeculae could predict a reduction of ∼30% in the apparent elastic modulus, as reported in experimental studies of osteoporotic femora. Based on these comparisons, it is concluded that the single-trabecula element developed in the present study is well-suited for representing cancellous bone in large-scale generic FE simulations.