A new method is described for the analysis of the two-dimensional structural pattern of trabecular bone in human iliac crest biopsies. 8 μm thick undecalcified sections stained with the von Kossa technique were examined at a magnification of ×9. Using an Ibas II image analyser, the ratio of nodes to free ends and the length of different strut types (cortex to free end, node or cortex, free end to free end and node to node, loop or free end) expressed as a percentage of total strut length were assessed.
The reproducibility of the method was good for most of the measured indices but inter-observer and inter-section variation were greater. Comparison of biopsy sections obtained from eleven young healthy control subjects and eleven patients with hepatic osteoporosis revealed a significantly higher node to free end ratio, node to loop and node to node strut length and significantly lower cortex to free end and free end to free end strut length in the controls. No significant differences were seen in node to free end, cortex to cortex or cortex to node strut length. This approach to trabecular bone structure analysis should prove useful in determining patterns of bone loss in health and disease and in examining the effects of treatment on bone structure in osteoporosis.