A Novel Large Deformation Finite Element Approach To Modelling Micro-Damage And Micro-Fracture In Trabecular Bone


Noel Harrison, Pat McDonnell, Liam Mullins, Prof. Peter McHugh


This project is concerned with the development of a method of generating highly detailed computer models of bones to help engineers understand how bones deform and how they might fracture when subjected to the forces of daily life. This is done by creating an accurate computer representation of the structure of bone at the micro-scale, determined from CT or MRI scan data. The models can then be used to examine how weak points in the bone can lead to the generation of cracks and, ultimately, fracture. The models are particularly useful in the study of osteoporosis, which is a disease that causes weakening of bones and that can be partially detected using CT or MRI scans. Using the models, engineers will be able to quantify the extent to which the disease reduces the amount of force a bone can carry, and they will also be able to quantify how effective drug treatments are on counteracting the effects of osteoporosis and improving bone strength. Since the method uses CT or MRI scan data different models can be generated for different patients – they can be “patient specific” greatly increasing their usefulness. The illustration shows one of the highly detailed computer simulations of the deformation of trabecular bone, which makes up the interior of our bones, where the colour contours indicate regions of high stress and increased fracture risk. Noel Harrison won first Prize for Best Overall Oral Presentation at the European Society of Biomechanics Summer Workshop 2007 for a presentation of this work.


Harrison N, McDonnell P, Mullins L, McHugh PE (2007) A Novel Large Deformation Finite Element Approach to Modelling Micro-Damage and Micro-Fracture in Trabecular Bone, European Society of Biomechanics Summer Workshop 2007 on Finite Element Modelling in Biomechanics and Mechanobiology.


Noel Harrison is an IRCSET Embark Scholar. The authors also acknowledge support from the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI), administered by the HEA.