Limitations of the continuum assumption in cancellous bone

Timothy P. Harrigan, Murali Jasty, Robert W. Mann, William H. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

250 Scopus citations


Most existing stress analyses of the skeleton which consider cancellous bone assume that it can be modelled as a continuum. In this paper we develop a criterion for the validity of this assumption. The limitations of the continuum assumption appear in two areas: near biologic interfaces, and in areas of large stress gradients. These limitations are explored using a probabilistic line scanning model for density measurement, resulting in an estimate of density accuracy as a function of line length which is experimentally verfied. Within three to five trabeculae of an interface, a continuum model is suspect. When results as predicted using continuum analyses vary by more than 20-30% over a distance spanning three to five trabeculae, the results are suspect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-275
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Rehabilitation


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