The resistance of cortical bone tissue to failure under cyclic loading is reduced with alendronate

Devendra Bajaj, Joseph R. Geissler, Matthew R. Allen, David B. Burr, J. C. Fritton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-64
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Antiresorptives
  • Atypical fracture
  • Bone remodeling
  • Osteocytes
  • Osteoporosis


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