Osteonal bone is often compared to a composite material and to metals as discontinuities within the material may provide sites of stress concentration for crack initiation and serve as barriers to crack growth. However, little experimental data exist to back up these hypotheses. Fluorescent chelating agents were applied at specific intervals to bone specimens fatigue tested in cyclic compression at a stress range of 80 MPa. The failed specimens were sectioned and labelled microcracks identified using UV epifluorescence microscopy. Microcrack lengths were measured and their relationship to cement lines surrounding secondary osteons recorded. Microcrack length at the time of encountering a cement line was also measured. Microcracks of less than 100mum stopped growing when they encountered a cement line. Microcracks of greater than 100mum in length continued to grow after encountering a cement line surrounding an osteon. Only microcracks greater than 300mum in length were capable of penetrating osteons and these microcracks were the only ones which were observed to cause failure in the specimen. These experimental data support the hypothesis that secondary osteons act as barriers to crack propagation in compact bone. However, it shows that this microstructural barrier effect is dependent on the crack length at the time of encountering an osteon. For the vast majority of cracks, osteons act as barriers to growth but for the minority of cracks that are long enough and do break through the cement line, an osteon may actually act as a weakness in the bone and facilitate crack propagation.
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland ->