An Investigation of Rat Vertebra Failure Behaviour Under Uniaxial Compression Through Time-Lapsed Micro-CT Imaging
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Osteoporosis is a bone degenerative disease characterized by reduced bone mass, quality and strength, along with changes in microarchitecture and increased incidence of fracture. The significant economic and social costs associated with osteoporotic fractures of the hip and spine have resulted in extensive research efforts directed towards developing an improved understanding of this disease, along with the relationships between osteoporotic bone degradation and fracture risk assessment. The current study investigates the failure behaviour of rat vertebral bodies collected from normal and osteoporotic donors based on the ovariectomized rat model (SHAM and OVX study groups, respectively), along with an additional control group intended to simulate postmenopausal patients with estrogen repletion (OVX+E study group). Simultaneous uniaxial compression testing and X-ray Micro-Computed Tomography (XμCT) were used to visualize and describe the failure behaviour of prepared vertebral body samples during mechanical testing, while providing standard measures of mechanical properties and bone geometry. In tandem with the incremental loading protocol required for simultaneous mechanical testing and XμCT imaging, a continuous loading protocol was also included. Three distinct failure behaviours were observed without bias in the three different study groups and two loading protocols. The primary and secondary failure modes involved fracture initiation in the direct vicinity of vascular apertures present in the dorsal surface of the cortical shell, with failure progression through the sample towards the ventral surface of the cortical shell (primary) or the cranial endplate (secondary). The tertiary failure mode involved localized rupture of the cranial endplate, likely resulting from end-effect related stress-concentrations. Diminished trabecular bone geometry (reduced BV/TV and Tb.N, along with increased Tb.Sp) was accompanied by reduced mechanical properties (reduced ultimate force and ultimate strength) in the OVX study group when compared with the SHAM and OVX+E study groups. Linear regression analyses revealed a shift in the determinants of failure initiation between the SHAM/OVX+E study groups and the OVX study group. In the SHAM and OVX+E study groups, ultimate force was best predicted by indices describing the vascular apertures present in the dorsal cortical shell. In the OVX study group, ultimate force was best predicted by indices describing trabecular bone geometry.