Bone and Joint Institute

Biomechanical properties and thermal characteristics of frozen versus thawed whole bone

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Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part H: Journal of Engineering in Medicine





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© IMechE 2020. Biomechanics research often requires cadaveric whole bones to be stored in a freezer and then thawed prior to use; however, the literature shows a variety of practices for thawing. Consequently, this is the first study to report the mechanical properties of fully frozen versus fully thawed whole bone as ‘proof of principle’. Two groups of 10 porcine ribs each were statistically equivalent at baseline in length, cross-sectional area, and bone mineral density. The two groups were stored in a freezer for at least 24 h, thawed in air at 23 °C for 4 h while temperature readings were taken to establish the time needed for thawing, and once again returned to the freezer for at least 24 h. Mechanical tests to failure using three-point bending were then done on the ‘frozen’ group immediately after removal from the freezer and the ‘thawed’ group when steady-state ambient air temperature was reached. Temperature readings over the entire thawing period were described by the line-of-best-fit formula T = (28.34t − 6.69)/(t + 0.38), where T = temperature in degree Celsius and t = time in hours, such that frozen specimens at t = 0 h had a temperature of −17 °C and thawed specimens at t = 1.75 h reached a steady-state temperature of 20 °C–23 °C. Mechanical tests showed that frozen versus thawed specimens had an average of 32% higher stiffness k, 34% higher ultimate force Fu, 28% lower ultimate displacement δu, 40% lower ultimate work Wu, 43% higher elastic modulus E, 37% higher ultimate normal stress σu, and 33% higher ultimate shear stress τu. Whole ribs failed at midspan primarily by transverse cracking (16 of 20 cases), oblique cracking (three of 20 cases), or surface denting (one of 20 cases), each having unique shapes for force versus displacement graphs differentiated mainly by ultimate force location.

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