eCM (Eur Cell Mater / e Cells & Materials) Not-for-profit Open Access
Created by Scientists, for Scientists
 ISSN:1473-2262         NLM:100973416 (link)         DOI:10.22203/eCM

2018   Volume No 35 – pages 25-33

Title: The thermal conductivity of cortical and cancellous bone

Authors: A Feldmann, P Wili, G Maquer, P Zysset

Address: Institute for Surgical Technology and Biomechanics, University of Bern, Switzerland

E-mail: arne.feldmann at

Abstract: Surgical interventions close to vulnerable structures, such as nerves, require precise handling of surgical instruments and tools. These tools not only pose the risk of mechanical damage to soft tissues, but they also generate heat, which can lead to thermal necrosis of bone or soft tissues. Researchers and engineers are trying to improve those tools through experimentation and simulations. To simulate temperature distributions in anatomical structures, reliable material constants are needed. Therefore, this study aimed at investigating the thermal conductivity of cortical and cancellous bone. Accordingly, a custom-made steady-state experimental setup was designed and validated. 6 bovine and 3 human cortical bone samples, as well as 32 bovine cancellous bone samples, with variable bone volume fraction were tested. The cancellous bone samples were scanned by micro-computed tomography (µCT) and micro-finite element (µFE) voxel models were created to calculate iteratively the thermal conductivity of the bone marrow. The experimental results provided 0.64 ± 0.04 W/mK for bovine cortical bone and 0.68 ± 0.01 W/mK for human cortical bone. A linear dependency of thermal conductivity on bone volume fraction was found for cancellous bone [R-square (R2) = 0.8096, standard error of the estimates (SEE) = 0.0355 W/mK]. The thermal conductivity of the bone marrow was estimated to be 0.42 ± 0.05 W/mK. These results will help to improve thermal finite element simulations of the human skeleton and aid the development of new surgical tools or procedures.

Key Words: Thermal conductivity of compact and trabecular bone, specific heat of bone, thermal bone necrosis, temperature of cutting or drilling of bone.

Publication date: January 29th 2018

Article download: Pages 25-33 (PDF file)

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