Mechanical testing of bones: the positive synergy of finite-element models and in vitro experiments

Luca Cristofolini, Enrico Schileo, Mateusz Juszczyk, Fulvia Taddei, Saulo Martelli, Marco Viceconti

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    59 Citations (Scopus)


    Bone biomechanics have been extensively investigated in the past both with in vitro experiments and numerical models. In most cases either approach is chosen, without exploiting synergies. Both experiments and numerical models suffer from limitations relative to their accuracy and their respective fields of application. In vitro experiments can improve numerical models by: (i) preliminarily identifying the most relevant failure scenarios; (ii) improving the model identification with experimentally measured material properties; (iii) improving the model identification with accurately measured actual boundary conditions; and (iv) providing quantitative validation based on mechanical properties (strain, displacements) directly measured from physical specimens being tested in parallel with the modelling activity. Likewise, numerical models can improve in vitro experiments by: (i) identifying the most relevant loading configurations among a number of motor tasks that cannot be replicated in vitro; (ii) identifying acceptable simplifications for the in vitro simulation; (iii) optimizing the use of transducers to minimize errors and provide measurements at the most relevant locations; and (iv) exploring a variety of different conditions (material properties, interface, etc.) that would require enormous experimental effort. By reporting an example of successful investigation of the femur, we show how a combination of numerical modelling and controlled experiments within the same research team can be designed to create a virtuous circle where models are used to improve experiments, experiments are used to improve models and their combination synergistically provides more detailed and more reliable results than can be achieved with either approach singularly. This journal is

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2725-2763
    Number of pages39
    JournalPhilosophical Transactions of The Royal Society of London Series A-Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences
    Issue number1920
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2010


    • Experimental validation
    • Human bones
    • Mechanical in vitro testing
    • Numerical modelling
    • Sensitivity analysis
    • Skeletal biomechanics


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