Bisphosphonates are the most prescribed preventative treatment for osteoporosis. However, their long-term use has recently been associated with atypical fractures of cortical bone in patients who present with low-energy induced breaks of unclear pathophysiology. The effects of bisphosphonates on the mechanical properties of cortical bone have been exclusively studied under simple, monotonic, quasi-static loading. This study examined the cyclic fatigue properties of bisphosphonate-treated cortical bone at a level in which tissue damage initiates and is accumulated prior to frank fracture in low-energy situations. Physiologically relevant, dynamic, 4-point bending applied to beams (1.5mm×0.5mm×10mm) machined from dog rib (n=12/group) demonstrated mechanical failure and micro-architectural features that were dependent on drug dose (3 groups: 0, 0.2, 1.0mg/kg/day; alendronate [ALN] for 3years) with cortical bone tissue elastic modulus (initial cycles of loading) reduced by 21% (p<0.001) and fatigue life (number of cycles to failure) reduced in a stress-life approach by greater than 3-fold with ALN1.0 (p<0.05). While not affecting the number of osteons, ALN treatment reduced other features associated with bone remodeling, such as the size of osteons (-14%; ALN1.0: 10.5±1.8, VEH: 12.2±1.6, ×103μm2; p<0.01) and the density of osteocyte lacunae (-20%; ALN1.0: 11.4±3.3, VEH: 14.3±3.6, ×102 #/mm2; p<0.05). Furthermore, the osteocyte lacunar density was directly proportional to initial elastic modulus when the groups were pooled (R=0.54, p<0.01). These findings suggest that the structural components normally contributing to healthy cortical bone tissue are altered by high-dose ALN treatment and contribute to reduced mechanical properties under cyclic loading conditions.
- Atypical fracture
- Bone remodeling