Validation of a voxel-based FE method for prediction of the uniaxial apparent modulus of human trabecular bone using macroscopic mechanical tests and nanoindentation

Yan Chevalier*, Helga Allmer, Dieter Pahr, Mathieu Charlebois, Philippe Zysset

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

138 Citations (Scopus)


Assessment of the mechanical properties of trabecular bone is of major biological and clinical importance for the investigation of bone diseases, fractures and their treatments. Finite element (FE) methods are getting increasingly popular for quantifying the elastic and failure properties of trabecular bone. In particular, voxel-based FE methods have been previously used to calculate the effective elastic properties of trabecular microstructures. However, in most studies, bone tissue moduli were assumed or back-calculated to match the apparent elastic moduli from experiments, which often lead to surprisingly low values when compared to nanoindentation results. In this study, voxel-based FE analysis of trabecular bone is combined with physical measures of volume fraction, micro-CT (μCT) reconstructions, uniaxial mechanical tests and specimen-specific nanoindentation tests for proper validation of the method. Cylindrical specimens of cancellous bone were extracted from human femurs and their volume fraction determined with Archimede's method. Uniaxial apparent modulus of the specimens was measured with an improved tension-compression testing protocol that minimizes boundary artefacts. Their μCT reconstructions were segmented to match the measured bone volume fraction and used to create full-size voxel models with 30-45 μm element size. For each specimen, linear isotropic elastic material properties were defined based on specific nanoindentation measurements of its embedded bone tissue. Linear FE analyses were finally performed to simulate the uniaxial mechanical tests. Additional parametric analyses were performed to evaluate the potential errors on the predicted apparent modulus arising from variations in segmentation threshold, tissue modulus, and the use of 125-mm3 cubic sub-regions. The results demonstrate an excellent correspondence between experimental measures and FE predictions of uniaxial apparent modulus. In conclusion, the adopted voxel-based FE approach is found to be a robust method to predict the linear elastic properties of human cancellous bone, provided segmentation of the μCT reconstructions is carefully calibrated, tissue modulus is known a priori and the entire region of interest is included in the analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3333-3340
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Apparent modulus
  • Finite element modelling
  • Micro-CT
  • Nanoindentation
  • Trabecular bone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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