3D Assessment of Cortical Bone Porosity and Tissue Mineral Density Using High-Resolution µCT: Effects of Resolution and Threshold Method



Current micro–computed tomography (µCT) systems allow scanning bone at resolutions capable of three-dimensional (3D) characterization of intracortical vascular porosity and osteocyte lacunae. However, the scanning and reconstruction parameters along with the image segmentation method affect the accuracy of the measurements. In this study, the effects of scanning resolution and image threshold method in quantifying small features of cortical bone (vascular porosity, vascular canal diameter and separation, lacunar porosity and density, and tissue mineral density) were analyzed. Cortical bone from the tibia of Sprague-Dawley rats was scanned at 1-µm and 4-µm resolution, reconstructions were density-calibrated, and volumes of interest were segmented using approaches based on edge-detection or histogram analysis. In 1-µm resolution scans, the osteocyte lacunar spaces could be visualized, and it was possible to separate the lacunar porosity from the vascular porosity. At 4-µm resolution, the vascular porosity and vascular canal diameter were underestimated, and osteocyte lacunae were not effectively detected, whereas the vascular canal separation and tissue mineral density were overestimated compared to 1-µm resolution. Resolution had a much greater effect on the measurements than did threshold method, showing partial volume effects at resolutions coarser than 2 µm in two separate analyses, one of which assessed the effect of resolution on an object of known size with similar architecture to a vascular pore. Although there was little difference when using the edge-detection versus histogram-based threshold approaches, edge-detection was somewhat more effective in delineating canal architecture at finer resolutions (1–2 µm). In addition, use of a high-resolution (1 µm) density-based threshold on lower resolution (4 µm) density-calibrated images was not effective in improving the lower-resolution measurements. In conclusion, if measuring cortical vascular microarchitecture, especially in small animals, a µCT resolution of 1 to 2 µm is appropriate, whereas a resolution of at least 1 µm is necessary when assessing osteocyte lacunar porosity. © 2014 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.