Fracture in human cortical bone: local fracture criteria and toughening mechanisms

J Biomech. 2005 Jul;38(7):1517-25. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2004.07.010.


Micromechanical models for fracture initiation that incorporate local failure criteria have been widely developed for metallic and ceramic materials; however, few such micromechanical models have been developed for the fracture of bone. In fact, although the fracture event in "hard" mineralized tissues such as bone is commonly believed to be locally strain-controlled, only recently has there been experimental evidence (using double-notched four-point bend testing) to support this widely held belief. In the present study, we seek to shed further light on the nature of the local cracking events that precede catastrophic fracture in human cortical bone, and to define their relationship to the microstructure. Specifically, numerical computations are reported that demonstrate that the stress and strain states ahead of such a notch are qualitatively similar irrespective of the deformation mechanism (pressure-insensitive plasticity vs. pressure-sensitive microcracking). Furthermore, we use the double-notched test to examine crack-microstructure interactions from a perspective of determining the salient toughening mechanisms in bone and to characterize how these may affect the anisotropy in fracture properties. Based on preliminary micromechanical models of these processes, the relative contributions of various toughening mechanisms are established. In particular, crack deflection and uncracked-ligament bridging are identified as the major mechanisms of toughening in cortical bone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anisotropy
  • Cadaver
  • Compressive Strength
  • Computer Simulation
  • Elasticity
  • Female
  • Hardness
  • Hardness Tests / methods
  • Humans
  • Humeral Fractures / physiopathology*
  • Humerus / injuries*
  • Humerus / physiopathology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Models, Biological*
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tensile Strength