Osteonal Microcracking Pattern: A Potential Vitality Marker in Human Bone Trauma

Nathalie Schwab, Ignasi Galtés*, Michelle Winter-Buchwalder, Marisa Ortega-Sánchez, Xavier Jordana*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In forensic anthropology, the differential diagnosis between peri- and postmortem bone fractures is mainly based on macroscopic criteria. In contrast, studies focusing on bone histology are very scarce. In a recent publication, we showed that (perimortem) fractures in fresh human bones exhibit a different osteonal microcracking pattern than (postmortem) damage in dry bones. In the current work, we explored whether this osteonal microcracking pattern is distinctive of the vitality of (perimortem) fresh bone fractures. To this end, we compared the number, length and structural distribution of microcracks in vital humeral fractures from forensic autopsy cases with experimentally reproduced, three point-bending fractures in fresh and dry human humeri. Half of the fresh experimental bones were fractured whilst applying axial compression, i.e., attempting to simulate intra vitam conditions more accurately. The results showed a similar osteonal microcracking pattern between vital fractures and experimental fractures of fresh humeri subjected to axial compression. Interestingly, this pattern was significantly different from the one observed in the experimental fractures of fresh humeri without axial compression and dry humeri. This supports our hypothesis that the osteonal microcracking pattern can potentially be used as a marker for vital perimortem trauma, providing a histomorphometric tool for fracture timing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number399
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • blunt force trauma
  • bone fractures
  • bone histology
  • bone histomorphometry
  • forensic anthropology
  • fracture timing
  • microcracking pattern
  • osteonal microcracks
  • perimortem trauma


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