The theory of critical distances applied to problems in fracture and
fatigue of bone
The theory of critical distances (TCD) has been applied to predict notch-based fracture and fatigue in a wide range of materials and components. The present paper describes a series of projects in which we applied this approach to human bone. Using experimental data from the literature, combined with finite element analysis, we showed that the TCD was able to predict the effect of notches and holes on the strength of bone failing in brittle fracture due to monotonic loading, in different loading regimes. Bone also displays short crack effects, leading to R-curve data for both fracture toughness and fatigue crack propagation thresholds; we showed that the TCD could predict this data. This analysis raised a number of questions for discussion, such as the significance of the L value itself in this and other materials. Finally, we applied the TCD to a practical problem in orthopaedic surgery: the management of bone defects, showing that predictions could be made which would enable surgeons to decide on whether a bone graft material would be needed to repair a defect, and to specify what mechanical properties this material should have.