The effects of total hip arthroplasty on the structural and biomechanical properties of adult bone



The responsiveness of bone to mechanical stimuli changes throughout life, with adaptive potential generally declining after skeletal maturity is reached. This has led some to question the importance of bone functional adaptation in the determination of the structural and material properties of the adult skeleton. A better understanding of age-specific differences in bone response to mechanical loads is essential to interpretations of long bone adaptation. The purpose of this study is to examine how the altered mechanical loading environment and cortical bone loss associated with total hip arthroplasty affects the structural and biomechanical properties of adult bone at the mid-shaft femur. Femoral cross sections from seven individuals who had undergone unilateral total hip arthroplasty were analyzed, with intact, contralateral femora serving as an approximate internal control. A comparative sample of individuals without hip prostheses was also included in the analysis. Results showed a decrease in cortical area in femora with prostheses, primarily through bone loss at the endosteal envelope; however, an increase in total cross-sectional area and maintenance of the parameters of bone strength, Ix, Iy, and J, were observed. No detectable differences were found between femora of individuals without prostheses. We interpret these findings as an adaptive response to increased strains caused by loading a bone previously diminished in mass due to insertion of femoral prosthesis. These results suggest that bone accrued through periosteal apposition may serve as an important means by which adult bone can functional adapt to changes in mechanical loading despite limitations associated with senescence. Am J Phys Anthropol 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.