3D micro-computed tomography of trabecular and cortical bone architecture with application to a rat model of immobilisation osteoporosis

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Bone mass and microarchitecture are the main determinants of bone strength. Three-dimensional micro-computed tomogrpahy has the potential to examine complete bones of small laboratory animals with very high resolution in a non-invasive way. In the presented work, the proximal part of the tibiae of hindlimb unloaded and control rats were measured with 3D MicroCT, and the secondary spongiosa of the scanned region was evaluated using direct evaluation techniques that do not require model assumptions. For determination of the complete bone status, the cortex of the tibiae was evaluated and characterised by its thickness. It is shown that with the proposed anatomically conforming volume of interest (VOI), up to an eight-fold volume increase can be evaluated compared to cubic or spherical VOIs. A pronounced trabecular bone loss of −50% is seen after 23 days of tail suspension. With the new evaluation techniques, it is shown that most of this bone loss is caused by the thinning of trabeculae, and to a lesser extent by a decrease in their number. What changes most radically is the structure type: the remaining bone is more rod-like than the control group's bone. Cortical bone decreases less than trabecular bone, with only −18% after 23 days.