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Keywords:

  • µCT;
  • bone microstructure;
  • trabeculae;
  • age;
  • sex;
  • osteoporosis;
  • osteopenia

Abstract

Age estimations based on conventional multifactorial methods were compared with trends observed in the internal morphology of bones obtained from high-resolution µCT. Specifically, average trabecular thickness and number of trabeculae/mm transect were determined in the non-load-bearing capitate (hand) and the load-bearing navicular (foot). The µCT findings reveal age-related trends but—surprisingly—these correspond only loosely with the ages assigned by conventional ageing methods, and are also not in accordance with what would be predicted from biomechanical considerations: trabeculae tend to be thinner in the (habitually) load-bearing navicular than in the (habitually) non-load-bearing capitate. While the statistically significant correlation between trabecular thickness and number of trabeculae would suggest a compensatory mechanism between these two aspects of microanatomy, they are not correlated with the assigned ages and, importantly, may differ between sexes. Only in females is there an unequivocal trend towards trabecular thickness increase with age. These findings, although unexpected, can be reconciled with recent histological evidence and assumed average activity levels in historical populations. Conversely, changes in trabecular number are less clear-cut and may be due to the lack of very old individuals in the sample. Nevertheless, the trends observed for trabecular thickness, as well as for trabecular number, seem to imply that the higher incidence of osteoporosis in women could be explained from a structural point of view alone. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.