• imaging;
  • trabecular bone;
  • structure


Osteoporosis is the most common degenerative disease in the elderly. It is characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to morbidity and increased fracture risk in the hip, spine and wrist–all sites of predominantly trabecular bone. Bone densitometry, currently the standard methodology for diagnosis and treatment monitoring, has significant limitations in that it cannot provide information on the structural manifestations of the disease. Recent advances in imaging, in particular MRI, can now provide detailed insight into the architectural consequences of disease progression and regression in response to treatment. The focus of this review is on the emerging methodology of quantitative MRI for the assessment of structure and function of trabecular bone. During the past 10 years, various approaches have been explored for obtaining image-based quantitative information on trabecular architecture. Indirect methods that do not require resolution on the scale of individual trabeculae and therefore can be practiced at any skeletal location, make use of the induced magnetic fields in the intertrabecular space. These fields, which have their origin in the greater diamagnetism of bone relative to surrounding marrow, can be measured in various ways, most typically in the form of R2′, the recoverable component of the total transverse relaxation rate. Alternatively, the trabecular network can be quantified by high-resolution MRI (µ-MRI), which requires resolution adequate to at least partially resolve individual trabeculae. Micro-MRI-based structure analysis is therefore technically demanding in terms of image acquisition and algorithms needed to extract the structural information under conditions of limited signal-to-noise ratio and resolution. Other requirements that must be met include motion correction and image registration, both critical for achieving the reproducibility needed in repeat studies. Key clinical applications targeted involve fracture risk prediction and evaluation of the effect of therapeutic intervention. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.