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J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2006 Jan;88(1):55-70.

Predicting fracture through benign skeletal lesions with quantitative computed tomography.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



There are no proven radiographic guidelines for predicting fracture risk in children and young adults with a benign skeletal lesion. An in vivo diagnostic study was conducted to determine whether a reduction in the load-carrying capacity of a bone measured with quantitative computed tomography was more accurate than current radiographic guidelines for predicting pathologic fracture in patients with a benign skeletal lesion.


Eighteen patients who presented with a fracture through a benign skeletal lesion were compared with eighteen patients who had a benign skeletal lesion that had been thought to be at increased risk for fracture on the basis of currently used radiographic criteria but had not fractured over a two-year period. Structural analysis was performed to calculate the resistance of the affected bones to compressive, bending, and torsional loads with use of serial transaxial quantitative computed tomography data obtained along the length of the bone containing the lesion and from homologous cross sections through the contralateral, normal bone. At each cross section, the ratio of the structural rigidity of the affected bone divided by that of the normal, contralateral bone was determined. The cross section with the greatest reduction in compressive, bending, and torsional rigidity was identified as that most likely to fracture.


The mean age (and standard deviation) of the thirty-six patients was 12.5 +/- 3.6 years. Twenty lesions were located in the femur; eleven, in the tibia; three, in the humerus; one, in the ulna; and one, in the pelvis. A combination of the minimum bending and torsional rigidities calculated from the tomographic data provided optimal performance in differentiating between the fracture and non-fracture groups (100% sensitivity and 94% specificity). In contrast, plain radiographic criteria demonstrated 28% to 83% sensitivity and 6% to 78% specificity.


The combination of bending and torsional rigidity measured noninvasively with quantitative computed tomography was more accurate (97%) for predicting pathologic fracture through benign bone lesions in children than were standard radiographic criteria (42% to 61% accuracy). We believe that this method can provide accurate objective criteria for planning treatment of benign bone lesions and monitoring treatment response.

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