Relationships between loading history and femoral cancellous bone architecture

D. R. Carter, T. E. Orr, David P Fyhrie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

361 Scopus citations


A theory relating bone maintenance to mechanical loading history has been applied to successfully predict the distribution of bone density and trabecular orientation in the adult proximal femur. The loading history was simulated by determining the stress fields in a two-dimensional finite element model exposed to various discrete loading cases and making assumptions about the relative number of loading cycles associated with each load case. The total stimulus to bone maintenance was then calculated by a linear superposition of the stimulus of each loading case. Based on the calculated total stimulus, the apparent density and material properties of each element were changed and the stress solutions were again determined. Using this iterative technique, the bone apparent density and orientation characteristics were predicted. The results indicate that the trabecular morphology of the femur can only be explained by considering the joint loadings from multiple directions. Contrary to the 'trajectorial theory' promoted by Wolff (The Law of Bone Remodelling, 1892), trabecular orientations predicted from our multiple-load analyses are not necessarily perpendicular and do not correspond to the principal stress directions of any one loading condition. Our predicted orientations correspond better to the drawing of bone trabecular morphology by von Meyer (Archs Anat. Physiol. wiss. Med.34, 615-628, 1867) than to the classic drawing by Wolff and suggest that further study of the trajectorial theory is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-244
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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