Mechanical interaction between additive-manufactured metal lattice structures and bone in compression: implications for stress shielding of orthopaedic implants

Erica Liverani, Giulia Rogati, Stefania Pagani, Silvia Brogini, Alessandro Fortunato, Paolo Caravaggi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the main biomechanical causes for aseptic failure of orthopaedic implants is the stress shielding. This is caused by an uneven load distribution across the bone normally due to a stiff metal prosthesis component, leading to periprosthetic bone resorption and to implant loosening. To reduce the stress shielding and to improve osseointegration, biocompatible porous structures suitable for orthopaedic applications have been developed. Aim of this study was to propose a novel in-vitro model of the mechanical interaction between metal lattice structures and bovine cortical bone in compression. Analysis of the strain distribution between metal structure and bone provides useful information on the potential stress shielding of orthopaedic implants with the same geometry of the porous scaffold. Full density and lattice structures obtained by the repetition of 1.5 mm edge cubic elements via Laser Powder Bed Fusion of CoCrMo powder were characterized for mechanical properties using standard compressive testing. The two porous geometries were characterized by 750 μm and 1000 μm pores resulting in a nominal porosity of 43.5% and 63.2% respectively. Local deformation and strains of metal samples coupled with fresh bovine cortical bone samples were evaluated via Digital Image Correlation analysis up to failure in compression. Visualization and quantification of the local strain gradient across the metal-bone interface was used to assess differences in mechanical behaviour between structures which could be associated to stress-shielding. Overall stiffness and local mechanical properties of lattice and bone were consistent across samples. Full-density metal samples appeared to rigidly transfer the compression force to the bone which was subjected to large deformations (2.2 ± 0.3% at 15 kN). Larger porosity lattice was associated to lower stiffness and compressive modulus, and to a smoother load transfer to the bone. While tested on a limited sample size, the proposed in-vitro model appears robust and repeatable to assess the local mechanical interaction of metal samples suitable for orthopaedic applications with the bone tissue. CoCrMo scaffolds made of 1000 μm pores cubic cells may allow for a smoother load transfer to the bone when used as constitutive material of orthopaedic implants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials
Early online dateMay 25 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


  • Additive manufacturing
  • In-vitro model
  • Lattice structures
  • Orthopedics
  • Stress-shielding
  • Stress/strain measurements


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