Structural and Material Changes in the Aging Thorax and Their Role in Crash Protection for Older Occupants
The human body undergoes a variety of changes as it ages through adulthood. These include both morphological (structural) changes (e.g., increased thoracic kyphosis) and material changes (e.g., osteoporosis). The purpose of this study is to evaluate structural changes that occur in the aging bony thorax and to assess the importance of these changes relative to the well-established material changes. The study involved two primary components. First, full-thorax computed tomography (CT) scans of 161 patients, age 18 to 89 years, were analyzed to quantify the angle of the ribs in the sagittal plane. A significant association between the angle of the ribs and age was identified, with the ribs becoming more perpendicular to the spine as age increased (0.08 degrees/year, p=0.012). Next, a finite element model of the thorax was used to evaluate the importance of this rib angle change relative to other factors associated with aging.