Browse Publications Technical Papers 2007-22-0011
2007-10-29

The Biomechanics of Human Ribs: Material and Structural Properties from Dynamic Tension and Bending Tests 2007-22-0011

The purpose of this study was to quantify both the tensile material properties and structural response of human ribs in order to determine which variables contribute to regional variation in the strength of human ribs. This was done by performing 94 matched tests on human rib specimens; 46 tension coupon tests, 48 three-point bending tests. Contralateral matched specimens were dissected from anterior and lateral regions of ribs 4 through 7 of six male fresh frozen post mortem human subjects ranging from 42 to 81 years of age. Tension coupons were taken from one side of the thorax, while three-point bending specimens were taken from the opposite side as the tension coupons at corresponding anatomical locations. The results of the tension coupon testing showed that there were no significant differences with respect to region or rib level: ultimate stress (p=0.90; p=0.53), ultimate strain (p=0.49; p=0.86), or modulus (p=0.72; p=0.81). In contrast, lateral three-point bending specimens were found to have a significantly higher peak bending moment (p<0.01), peak strain (p=0.03), modulus (p=0.05), and stiffness (p<0.01) than anterior specimens. The lateral three-point bending specimens also had a significantly larger area moment of inertia (p<0.01), larger distance to the neutral axis (p<0.01), smaller ratio of distance to the neutral axis to area moment of inertia (p<0.01), larger cortical bone area (p<0.01), and larger radius of gyration (p<0.01) than the anterior specimens. In addition, the peak moment (Ant p=0.20; Lat p=0.02), peak strain (Ant p=0.05; Lat p=0.15), and stiffness (Ant p<0.01; Lat p<0.01) were found to vary significantly with respect to rib level. Similar to anatomical region, the changes in the structural response with respect to rib level were also accompanied by significant changes in geometry. For anterior specimens, distance to the neutral axis (p<0.01), ratio of the distance to the neutral axis to area moment of inertia (p=0.02) and radius of gyration (p=0.04) were found to be significantly different with respect to rib level. For lateral specimens, the area moment of inertia (p<0.01), distance to the neutral axis (p<0.01), ratio of the distance to the neutral axis to area moment of inertia (p<0.01), the cortical bone area (p=0.01), and radius of gyration (p=0.03) were found to be significantly different with respect to rib level. These results clearly illustrate that there is variation in the structural response of human ribs with respect to anatomical region and rib level and this variation is due to changes in local geometry of each rib while the material properties remain constant.

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