Osteopenia is one factor that may influence the decision about the type of implant fixation to use in total hip arthroplasty. However, clinical studies generally do not associate the outcome of an arthroplasty with the degree of osteopenia. The mechanical integrity of the cement fixation of an implant may be affected by the relative degree of osteopenia, which could account for some of the variable long-term results after total hip arthroplasty performed with cement. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of bone porosity, trabecular orientation, cement pressure, and cement penetration depth on fracture toughness at the bone-cement interface.

Trabecular bone from the proximal part of bovine femora was used with a single brand of commercial acrylic bone cement to form compact-tension interface specimens representing a range of bone porosities, orientations, and cement pressures within a clinically achievable range. All specimens were loaded to failure with use of a servohydraulic testing machine, and fracture toughness at the interface was calculated. After testing, images of a representative sample of specimens were made with use of computed tomography to measure the penetration depth of the cement into the bone.

Significant correlations were found between fracture toughness and bone porosity, trabecular orientation, and cement pressure, with bone porosity having the strongest effect (p < 0.000015). Examination of the computed tomographic images also showed a significant correlation between fracture toughness and maximum cement penetration depth (p < 0.033), as well as significant partial correlations between maximum and mean penetration depth and bone porosity (p < 0.0037 and p < 0.0028).

The fracture resistance of the bone-cement interface is greatly improved when the ability of the cement to flow into the intertrabecular spaces is enhanced.