Microstructural heterogeneity and the fracture toughness of bone

J. B. Phelps, G. B. Hubbard, X. Wang, C. M. Agrawal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Age-related changes in the skeleton often lead to an increase in the susceptibility of bone to fracture. The purpose of this study was to determine whether differences in material properties between the osteonal and interstitial regions of bone have an effect on bone fracture properties. Parameters such as longitudinal fracture toughness, transverse fracture toughness, porosity, interstitial microhardness, osteonal microhardness, bone density, and weight fractions of the mineral and organic phases of bone were examined as a function of age using female baboon femurs. With increasing age, the longitudinal fracture toughness decreased significantly as did transverse fracture toughness, whereas the interstitial microhardness increased. However, no significant differences in the other parameters were observed as a function of age. Using the ratio of interstitial microhardness to osteonal microhardness as a measure of the differences in the material properties in these two regions, correlation analysis revealed that the longitudinal fracture toughness of bone has a significant correlation with the microhardness ratio. Localized differences in material properties between osteonal and interstitial regions of bone increase with age; such differences may result in high stress concentrations at cement lines and facilitate longitudinal crack propagation. (C) 2000 John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-741
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biomedical Materials Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 15 2000


  • Age
  • Bone
  • Crack propagation
  • Fracture toughness
  • Microhardness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


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