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Calcif Tissue Int. 1986 Feb;38(2):67-70.

Inter-observer and intra-observer variation in bone histomorphometry.


Inter-observer variation has been examined for a number of histomorphometric indices in 20 normal human iliac crest biopsies. Quantitation was performed using an eye-piece graticule and eye-piece micrometer. The same sections were examined by two observers and the methodology was identical. Intra-observer variation was also assessed. Significant inter-observer differences were found for the measurement of total trabecular bone volume, osteoid volume and surface, double plus single and double tetracycline labeled surfaces, and the mean osteoid seam width. The percentage variance due to inter-observer variation was highest for osteoid surface and volume, total resorption surface, and mean osteoid seam width. Intra-observer variation in both observers was small. We conclude that a large inter-observer variation may occur in the measurement of a number of histomorphometric indices, even when section preparation and methodology are identical. Caution should be used in basing the diagnosis of metabolic bone disease on strictly defined control data from other observers, particularly when this has been obtained from centers where the effects of inter-observer variation may be magnified by differences in methodology.

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