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J Bone Miner Res. 2012 Mar;27(3):637-44. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.1468.

Relationship of age to bone microstructure independent of areal bone mineral density.

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College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.


Previous studies using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) have demonstrated that age is a major predictor of bone fragility and fracture risk independent of areal bone mineral density (aBMD). Although this aBMD-independent effect of age has been attributed to poor bone "quality," the structural basis for this remains unclear. Because high-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography (HRpQCT) can assess bone microarchitecture, we matched younger and older subjects for aBMD at the ultradistal radius and assessed for possible differences in trabecular or cortical microstructure by HRpQCT. From an age-stratified, random sample of community adults, 44 women aged <50 years (mean age 41.0 years) were matched to 44 women aged ≥50 years (mean age 62.7 years) by ultradistal radius aBMD (mean ± SEM, younger and older aBMD 0.475 ± 0.011 and 0.472 ± 0.011 g/cm², respectively), and 57 men aged <50 years (mean age 41.3 years) were matched to 57 men aged ≥50 years (mean age 68.1 years; younger and older aBMD both 0.571 ± 0.008 g/cm²). In these matched subjects, there were no sex-specific differences in trabecular microstructural parameters. However, significant differences were noted in cortical microstructure (all p < 0.05): Older women and men had increased cortical porosity (by 91% and 56%, respectively), total cortical pore volume (by 77% and 61%, respectively), and mean cortical pore diameter (by 9% and 8%, respectively) compared with younger subjects. These findings indicate that younger and older women and men matched for DXA aBMD have similar trabecular microarchitecture but clearly different cortical microstructure, at least at an appendicular site represented by the radius. Further studies are needed to define the extent to which this deterioration in cortical microstructure contributes to the aBMD-independent effect of age on bone fragility and fracture risk at the distal radius and other sites of osteoporotic fractures.

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