To comprehend the most detrimental characteristics behind bone fractures, it is key to understand the material and tissue level strain limits and their relation to failure sites. The aim of this study was to investigate the three-dimensional strain distribution and its evolution during loading at the sub-trabecular level in trabecular bone tissue. Human cadaver trabecular bone samples were compressed in situ until failure, while imaging with high-resolution synchrotron radiation X-ray tomography. Digital volume correlation was used to determine the strains inside the trabeculae. Regions without emerging damage were compared to those about to crack. Local strains in close vicinity of developing cracks were higher than previously reported for a whole trabecular structure and similar to those reported for single isolated trabeculae. Early literature on bone fracture strain thresholds at the tissue level seem to underestimate the maximum strain magnitudes in trabecular bone. Furthermore, we found lower strain levels and a reduced ability to capture detailed crack-paths with increased image voxel size. This highlights the dependence between the observed strain levels and the voxel size and that high-resolution is needed to investigate behavior of individual trabeculae. Furthermore, low trabecular thickness appears to be one predictor of developing cracks. In summary, this study investigated the local strains in whole trabecular structure at sub-trabecular resolution in human bone and confirmed the high strain magnitudes reported for single trabeculae under loading and, importantly extends its translation to the whole trabecular structure.
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