Background: It has been hypothesized that bone has the capacity to accommodate regional differences in tension and compression strain mode and/or magnitude by altering its osteonal microstructure. We examined a simple cantilevered bone to determine whether regional differences in particular strain-related features are reflected in the microstructural organization of compact bone.
Methods & Results: The artiodactyl (e.g., sheep and deer) calcaneus has a predominant loading condition which is typified by prevailing compressive and tensile strains on opposite cortices, and variations in strain magnitudes across each of these cortices. Microscopic examination showed osteon density and cortical porosity differences between tension (caudal) and compression (cranial) cortices, averaging 11.4% more osteons in the compression cortex (P < 0.01) and 80.2% greater porosity in the tension cortex (P < 0.01). There is 43.5% more interstitial bone in the compression cortex (P < 0.01). Osteons in the compression cortex also have smaller areas in contrast to the larger area per osteon in the tension cortex. Although no definite transcortical gradient in osteonal density or cortical porosity is found, fractional area of interstitial bone is largest and osteon population density is lowest in the endocortical regions of both tension and compression cortices. The endocortical regions also have greater porosity than their corresponding middle and pericortical regions (P < 0.01).
Conclusions: These osteonal microstructure and cortical porosity differences may be adaptations related to regional differences in strain mode and/or strain magnitude. This may be related to the disparity in mechanical properties of compact bone in tension vs. compression. These differences may reflect a capacity of bone to process local and regional strain-related information. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc. .