Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 1415–1428 | Cite as

Material heterogeneity, microstructure, and microcracks demonstrate differential influence on crack initiation and propagation in cortical bone

  • Ahmet Demirtas
  • Ani UralEmail author
Original Paper


The recent studies have shown that long-term bisphosphonate use may result in a number of mechanical alterations in the bone tissue including a reduction in compositional heterogeneity and an increase in microcrack density. There are limited number of experimental and computational studies in the literature that evaluated how these modifications affect crack initiation and propagation in cortical bone. Therefore, in this study, the entire crack growth process including initiation and propagation was simulated at the microscale by using the cohesive extended finite element method. Models with homogeneous and heterogeneous material properties (represented at the microscale capturing the variability in material property values and their distribution) as well as different microcrack density and microstructure were compared. The results showed that initiation fracture resistance was higher in models with homogeneous material properties compared to heterogeneous ones, whereas an opposite trend was observed in propagation fracture resistance. The increase in material heterogeneity level up to 10 different material property sets increased the propagation fracture resistance beyond which a decrease was observed while still remaining higher than the homogeneous material distribution. The simulation results also showed that the total osteonal area influenced crack propagation and the local osteonal area near the initial crack affected the crack initiation behavior. In addition, the initiation fracture resistance was higher in models representing bisphosphonate treated bone (low material heterogeneity, high microcrack density) compared to untreated bone models (high material heterogeneity, low microcrack density), whereas an opposite trend was observed at later stages of crack growth. In summary, the results demonstrated that tissue material heterogeneity, microstructure, and microcrack density influenced crack initiation and propagation differently. The findings also elucidate how possible modifications in material heterogeneity and microcrack density due to bisphosphonate treatment may influence the initiation and propagation fracture resistance of cortical bone.


Material property heterogeneity Microcrack Cortical bone Cohesive finite element modeling Bisphosphonate Atypical femoral fracture 



This study was funded by National Science Foundation Award No. CMMI-1434412. The computational resources for this study were supported by XSEDE Award No. MSS-160001.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringVillanova UniversityVillanovaUSA

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