• Box counting;
  • fractal analysis;
  • histological sections;
  • image analyser;
  • methodology;
  • sectional fractals;
  • trabecular bone

A standardized methodology for the fractal analysis of histological sections of trabecular bone has been established.

A modified box counting method has been developed for use on a PC-based image analyser. The effect of image analyser settings, magnification, image orientation and threshold levels was determined. Also, the range of scale over which trabecular bone is effectively fractal was determined and a method formulated to calculate objectively more than one fractal dimension from the modified Richardson plot.

The results show that magnification, image orientation and threshold settings have little effect on the estimate of fractal dimension. Trabecular bone has a lower limit below which it is not fractal (λ < 25 μm) and the upper limit is 4250 μm. There are three distinct fractal dimensions for trabecular bone (sectional fractals), with magnitudes greater than 1.0 and less than 2.0.

It has been shown that trabecular bone is effectively fractal over a defined range of scale. Also, within this range, there is more than one fractal dimension, describing spatial structural entities. Fractal analysis is a model-independent method for describing a complex multifaceted structure, which can be adapted for the study of other biological systems. This may be at the cell, tissue or organ level and complements conventional histomorphometric and stereological techniques.