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Magnetic resonance imaging of trabecular bone structure in the distal radius: Relationship with X-ray tomographic microscopy and biomechanics

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The contribution of trabecular bone structure to bone strength is of considerable interest in the study of osteoporosis and other disorders characterized by changes in the skeletal system. Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging of trabecular bone has emerged as a promising technique for assessing trabecular bone structure. In this in vitro study we compare the measures of trabecular structure obtained using MR imaging and higher-resolution X-ray tomographic microscopy (XTM) imaging of cubes from human distal radii. The XTM image resolution is similar to that obtained from histomorphometric sections (18 µm isotropic), while the MR images are obtained at a resolution comparable to that achievable in vivo (156×156×300 µm). Standard histomorphometric measures, such as trabecular bone area fraction (synonymous with BV/TV), trabecular width, trabecular spacing and trabecular number, texture-related measures and three-dimensional connectivity (first Betti number/volume) of the trabecular network have been derived from these images. The variation in these parameters as a function of resolution, and the relationship between the structural parameters, bone mineral density and the elastic modulus are also examined. In MR images, because the resolution is comparable to the trabecular dimensions, partial volume effects occur, which complicate the segmentation of the image into bone and marrow phases. Using a standardized thresholding criterion for all images we find that there is an overestimation of trabecular bone area fraction (∼3 times), trabecular width (∼3 times), fractal dimension (∼1.4 times) and first Betti number/ volume (∼10 times), and an underestimation of trabecular spacing (∼1.6 times) in the MR images compared with the 18-µm XTM images. However, even for a factor of 9 difference in spatial resolution, the differences in the morphological trabecular structure measures ranged from a factor of 1.4 to 3.0. We have found that trabecular width, area fraction, number, fractal dimension and Betti number/volume measured from the XTM and MR images increases, while trabecular spacing decreases, as the bone mineral density and elastic modulus increase. A preliminary bivariate analysis showed that in addition to bone mineral density alone, the Betti number, trabecular number and spacing contributed to the prediction of the elastic modulus. This preliminary study indicates that measures of trabecular bone structure using MR imaging may play a role in the study of osteoporosis.

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Correspondence to S. Majumdar PhD.

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Majumdar, S., Newitt, D., Mathur, A. et al. Magnetic resonance imaging of trabecular bone structure in the distal radius: Relationship with X-ray tomographic microscopy and biomechanics. Osteoporosis Int 6, 376–385 (1996).

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