Age-related changes in cortical porosity of the midshaft of the human femur


Correspondence to Dr Sophie A. Feik, School of Dental Science, 711 Elizabeth St, Melbourne, Victoria 3000 Australia. Tel. : +61 3 9341 0445; fax: +61 3 9341 0339; e-mail:


Complete cross-sections from the femoral midshaft of 180 individuals of known height and weight, aged 21–97 y, from a modern Australian population were examined using automatic video image analysis to quantify total subperiosteal porosity (TSPP). More specifically, the aim was to investigate whether age changes were similar in both sexes in (1) total subperiosteal area (TSPA), cortical area (CA) and medullary area (MA), (2) intracortical porosity (ICP), and (3) the respective contributions to TSPP made by MA and intracortical void area (ICVA). Our findings indicated that both sexes showed a significantly greater height normalised TSPA in the 70s as compared with the 20s. Males had consistently larger bones with a greater height normalised CA. In both sexes CA showed a tendency to increase till the 7th decade and then to decline, more so in females. MA approximately trebled in females and doubled in males over the age range studied. Although ICP also increased, from 4–6% in young adults to over 9% in the elderly, it showed a significant difference between the sexes only in the 3rd decade, being greater in males at this stage. By contrast, TSPP became significantly greater in females (from that recorded in the 3rd decade) by the time they reached the 50s, while in males this did not occur till the 80s. It increased from ∼25% in young adults of both sexes to ∼50% in females and ∼37% in males in their 80s. However, in the elderly there was great variability in both sexes in the appearance of bones from individuals of similar chronological age. Some bones differed little from those in younger subjects, others showed greatly increased ICP, still others displayed reduced cortical widths with low ICP. The femoral midshaft resembles other skeletal sites in that age changes in TSPP are more marked in females than males.