Digital topological analysis of in vivo magnetic resonance microimages of trabecular bone reveals structural implications of osteoporosis

Felix W. Wehrli, Bryon R. Gomberg, Punam K. Saha, Hee Kwon Song, Scott N. Hwang, Peter J. Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

206 Scopus citations


Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by bone volume loss and architectural deterioration. The majority of work aimed at evaluating the structural implications of the disease has been performed based on stereologic analysis of histomorphometric sections. Only recently noninvasive imaging methods have emerged that provide sufficient resolution to resolve individual trabeculae. In this article, we apply digital topological analysis (DTA) to magnetic resonance microimages (μ-MRI) of the radius obtained at 137 × 137 × 350 μm3 voxel size in a cohort of 79 women of widely varying bone mineral density (BMD) and vertebral deformity status. DTA is a new method that allows unambiguous determination of the three-dimensional (3D) topology of each voxel in a trabecular bone network. The analysis involves generation of a bone volume fraction map, which is subjected to subvoxel processing to alleviate partial volume blurring, followed by thresholding and skeletonization. The skeletonized images contain only surfaces, profiles, curves, and their mutual junctions as the remnants of trabecular plates and rods after skeletonization. DTA parameters were compared with integral BMD in the lumbar spine and femur as well as MR-derived bone volume fraction (BV/TV). Vertebral deformities were determined based on sagittal MRIs of the spine with a semiautomatic method and the number of deformities counted after threshold setting. DTA structural indices were found the strongest discriminators of subjects with deformities from those without deformities. Subjects with deformities (n = 29) had lower topological surface (SURF) density (p < 0.0005) and surface-to-curve ratio (SCR; a measure of the ratio of platelike to rodlike trabeculae; p < 0.0005) than those without. Profile interior (PI) density, a measure of intact trabecular rods, was also lower in the deformity group (p < 0.0001). These data provide the first in vivo evidence for the structural implications inherent in postmenopausal osteoporosis accompanying bone loss, that is, the conversion of trabecular plates to rods and disruption of rods due to repeated osteoclastic resorption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1520-1531
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Bone and Mineral Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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