The behaviour of microcracks in compact bone

Fergal J. O'Brien, David A. Hardiman, Jan G. Hazenberg, Matthew V. Mercy, Sahar Mohsin, David Taylor, T. Clive Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


This paper summarises four separate studies carried out by our group over the past number of years in the area of bone microdamage. The first study investigated the manner by which microcracks accumulate and interact with bone microstructure during fatigue testing of compact bone specimens. In a series of fatigue tests carried out at four different stress ranges between 50 and 80 MPA, crack density increased with loading cycles at a rate determined by the applied stress. Variations in the patterns of microdamage accumulation suggest that that at low stress levels, larger amounts of damage can build up without failure occurring. In a second study using a series of four-pont bending tests carried out on ovine bone samples, it was shown that bone microstructure influenced the ability of microcracks to propagate, with secondary osteons acting as barriers to crack growth. In a third study, the manner by which crack growth disrupts the canalicular processes connecting osteocytes was investigated. Analysis of individual cracks showed that disruption of the canalicular processes connecting osteocytes occurred due to shear displacement at the face of propagating microcracks, suggesting that this may play some role in the mechanism that signals bone remodelling. In a fourth in vivo study, it was shown that altering the mechanical load applied to the long bones of growing rats causes microcrack formation. In vivo microdamage was present in rats subjected to hindlimb suspension with a higher microcrack density found in the humeri than the femora. Microdamage was also found in control animals. This is the first study to demonstrate in vivo microcracks in normally loaded bones in a rat model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-79
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Morphology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Barrier
  • Hindlimb suspension
  • Microcrack
  • Osteocyte
  • Osteon
  • Propagation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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