, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 12-20

Adaptations of Trabecular Bone to Low Magnitude Vibrations Result in More Uniform Stress and Strain Under Load

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Extremely low magnitude mechanical stimuli (<10 microstrain) induced at high frequencies are anabolic to trabecular bone. Here, we used finite element (FE) modeling to investigate the mechanical implications of a one year mechanical intervention. Adult female sheep stood with their hindlimbs either on a vibrating plate (30 Hz, 0.3 g) for 20 min/d, 5 d/wk or on an inactive plate. Microcomputed tomography data of 1 cm bone cubes extracted from the medial femoral condyles were transformed into FE meshes. Simulated compressive loads applied to the trabecular meshes in the three orthogonal directions indicated that the low level mechanical intervention significantly increased the apparent trabecular tissue stiffness of the femoral condyle in the longitudinal (+17%, p < 0.02), anterior–posterior (+29%, p < 0.01), and medial-lateral (+37%, p < 0.01) direction, thus reducing apparent strain magnitudes for a given applied load. For a given apparent input strain (or stress), the resultant stresses and strains within trabeculae were more uniformly distributed in the off-axis loading directions in cubes of mechanically loaded sheep. These data suggest that trabecular bone responds to low level mechanical loads with intricate adaptations beyond a simple reduction in apparent strain magnitude, producing a structure that is stiffer and less prone to fracture for a given load. © 2003 Biomedical Engineering Society.