Changes in the stiffness, strength, and toughness of human cortical bone with age

Bone. 1998 Jan;22(1):57-66. doi: 10.1016/s8756-3282(97)00228-7.


Aging adversely affects the elastic and ultimate properties of human cortical bone as seen in uniaxial tests in quasi static loading, high strain rate impact or fatigue. Little is known about the full effects of aging on toughness and its relationship with strength. In the present article the elastic modulus (E), strength (sigma f), fracture toughness (KC and J-integral), and work of fracture (Wf) were determined in specimens of male human femoral bone aged between 35-92 years. In this way we investigated whether fracture of bone in three situations, allowing various amounts of damage prior to fracture, can provide a better insight into the fracture process and also the relative importance of these experimental methods for assessing the soundness of bone material. We found a steady and significant decrease with age for all these mechanical measures. E fell by 2.3%, from its value of 15.2 GPa at 35 years of age, per decade of later life; sigma f fell similarly from 170 MPa by 3.7%; KC from 6.4 MPa m1/2 by 4.1%; J-integral from 1.2 kJ m-2 by 3%, and the Wf from 3.4 kJ m-2 by 8.7%. In aging bone there was a deterioration in the elastic properties of the material. This reduced the (elastically calculated) critical stress intensity level (KC) required to initiate a macrocrack, or the nonlinear energy associated with the onset of fracture (J). The macrocrack was preceded by less damage, and once created needed less energy to drive through the tissue (Wf).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Femoral Fractures / pathology
  • Femoral Fractures / physiopathology*
  • Femur / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pliability
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tensile Strength / physiology
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology*