Osteoporosis International

, Volume 23, Issue 7, pp 1957–1965 | Cite as

Vertebral body bone strength: the contribution of individual trabecular element morphology

  • I. H. ParkinsonEmail author
  • A. Badiei
  • M. Stauber
  • J. Codrington
  • R. Müller
  • N. L. Fazzalari
Original Article



Although the amount of bone explains the largest amount of variability in bone strength, there is still a significant proportion unaccounted for. The morphology of individual bone trabeculae explains a further proportion of the variability in bone strength and bone elements that contribute to bone strength depending on the direction of loading.


Micro-CT imaging enables measurement of bone microarchitecture and subsequently mechanical strength of the same sample. It is possible using micro-CT data to perform morphometric analysis on individual rod and plate bone trabeculae using a volumetric spatial decomposition algorithm and hence determine their contribution to bone strength.


Twelve pairs of vertebral bodies (T12/L1 or L4/L5) were harvested from human cadavers, and bone cubes (10 × 10 × 10 mm) were obtained. After micro-CT imaging, a volumetric spatial decomposition algorithm was applied, and measures of individual trabecular elements were obtained. Bone strength was measured in compression, where one bone specimen from each vertebral segment was tested supero-inferiorly (SI) and the paired specimen was tested antero-posteriorly (AP).


Bone volume fraction was the strongest individual determinant of SI strength (r 2 = 0.77, p < 0.0001) and AP (r 2 = 0.54, p < 0.0001). The determination of SI strength was improved to r 2 = 0.87 with the addition of mean rod length and relative plate bone volume fraction. The determination of AP strength was improved to r 2 = 0.85 with the addition of mean rod volume and relative rod bone volume fraction.


Microarchitectural measures of individual trabeculae that contribute to bone strength have been identified. In addition to the contribution of BV/TV, trabecular rod morphology increased the determination of AP strength by 57%, whereas measures of trabecular plate and rod morphology increased determination of SI strength by 13%. Decomposing vertebral body bone architecture into its constituent morphological elements shows that trabecular element morphology has specific functional roles to assist in maintaining skeletal integrity.


Anisotropy Bone strength Spatial decomposition Trabecular bone plates Trabecular bone rods 



The authors are grateful to the staff at the Royal Adelaide Hospital Mortuary for their assistance with the collection of spines at autopsy. This work was supported by funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia. Dr. Badiei was supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award and the Discipline of Anatomy and Pathology, University of Adelaide.

Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© International Osteoporosis Foundation and National Osteoporosis Foundation 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. H. Parkinson
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • A. Badiei
    • 1
    • 2
  • M. Stauber
    • 3
    • 5
  • J. Codrington
    • 4
  • R. Müller
    • 3
  • N. L. Fazzalari
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Bone and Joint Research LaboratorySA Pathology and Hanson InstituteAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Discipline of Anatomy and PathologyUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.Institute for BiomechanicsETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  4. 4.School of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  5. 5.b-cube AGSchlieren-ZurichSwitzerland

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