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Bone. 2006 Apr;38(4):475-84. Epub 2005 Dec 9.

Volumetric spatial decomposition of trabecular bone into rods and plates--a new method for local bone morphometry.

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Institute for Biomedical Engineering, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Switzerland.


Bone microarchitecture is believed to play a key role in determining bone quality. We therefore present a new method for the volumetric spatial decomposition of trabecular bone samples into its basic elements (rods and plates). This new method is a framework for the element based description of bone microarchitecture. First, the newly developed algorithm was validated on computer-generated models. Then, it was applied to 328 human trabecular bone samples harvested from 70 donors at five different anatomical sites (calcaneus, femoral head, iliac crest, lumbar spine 2 and 4), which were previously scanned by microcomputed tomography. Standard three-dimensional morphometric algorithms were used to analyze the trabeculae on an individual basis with respect to their volume, surface, and thickness. The results were statistically compared for the five sites. In this study, it was possible for the first time to spatially decompose trabecular bone structures in its volumetric elements; rods and plates. The size of the largest element in the structures showed significant differences for the five compared sites. In samples from femoral head, we found that basically one "major element" was spanning through the whole structure whereas in lumbar spine and calcaneus, smaller elements dominate. From this, we suggest that the strength of strong, dense plate-like structures is determined by the major elements whereas in looser rod-like structures the strength is given by the arrangement, quality, and shape of a whole set of elements. Furthermore, we found that globally determined structural indices such as the mean curvature of the bone surface (<H>) or related to this the structure model index (SMI) are almost exclusively explained by the arrangement of the plates. This also suggests that rods hold independent information characterizing trabecular bone quality, especially in the spine. These findings may improve the understanding of the site-specific role of bone microarchitecture in determining bone quality and in future studies the competence of bone.

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