Precision of Digital Volume Correlation approaches for strain analysis in bone imaged with micro-computed tomography at different dimensional levels

Enrico Dall׳Ara, Marta Peña-Fernández, Marco Palanca, Mario Giorgi, Luca Cristofolini, Gianluca Tozzi

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Accurate measurement of local strain in heterogeneous and anisotropic bone tissue is fundamental to understand the pathophysiology of musculoskeletal diseases, to evaluate the effect of interventions from preclinical studies, and to optimize the design and delivery of biomaterials. Digital volume correlation (DVC) can be used to measure the three-dimensional displacement and strain fields from micro-computed tomography (μCT) images of loaded specimens. However, this approach is affected by the quality of the input images, by the morphology and density of the tissue under investigation, by the correlation scheme, and by the operational parameters used in the computation. Therefore, for each application, the precision of the method should be evaluated. In this paper, we present the results collected from datasets analyzed in previous studies as well as new data from a recent experimental campaign for characterizing the relationship between the precision of two different DVC approaches and the spatial resolution of the outputs. Different bone structures scanned with laboratory source μCT or synchrotron light μCT (SRμCT) were processed in zero-strain tests to evaluate the precision of the DVC methods as a function of the subvolume size that ranged from 8 to 2,500 µm. The results confirmed that for every microstructure the precision of DVC improves for larger subvolume size, following power laws. However, for the first time, large differences in the precision of both local and global DVC approaches have been highlighted when SRμCT or in vivo μCT images were used instead of conventional ex vivo μCT. These findings suggest that in situ mechanical testing protocols applied in SRμCT facilities should be optimized to allow DVC analyses of localized strain measurements. Moreover, for in vivo μCT applications, DVC analyses should be performed only with relatively course spatial resolution for achieving a reasonable precision of the method. In conclusion, we have extensively shown that the precision of both tested DVC approaches is affected by different bone structures, different input image resolution, and different subvolume sizes. Before each specific application, DVC users should always apply a similar approach to find the best compromise between precision and spatial resolution of the measurements.
Original languageEnglish
Article number31
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Materials
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2017


  • RCUK
  • EP/K03877X/1
  • bone
  • strain
  • digital volume correlation
  • deformable registration
  • micro-computed tomography
  • precision


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