Independent and Combined Contributions of Cancellous and Cortical Bone Deficits to Vertebral Fracture Risk in Postmenopausal Women


  • The authors state that they have no conflicts of interest.


Using iliac bone histomorphometry on 78 patients with vertebral fracture and 66 healthy postmenopausal women, cortical thickness discriminated at least as well as any cancellous bone structural index between the two groups. Subjects with a deficit in both cortical and cancellous bone had much greater likelihood of fracture.

Introduction: Vertebral fracture is often attributed to disproportional loss of cancellous bone, but fracture patients may have deficits in cortical and cancellous bone. Accordingly, we examined the contribution of cortical and cancellous bone deficits, separately and together, to the likelihood of vertebral fracture.

Materials and Methods: Iliac bone histomorphometry was performed in 78 white woman with clinically apparent vertebral fracture, 66 healthy postmenopausal women, and 38 healthy premenopausal women. We measured cancellous bone volume (Cn.BV/TV), trabecular number (Tb.N), trabecular thickness (Tb.Th), cortical bone volume (Ct.BV/TV), and cortical thickness (Ct.Th). For each variable, a value of >1 SD below the mean in premenopausal women was treated as a putative risk factor, and its association with the presence or absence of fracture was determined by OR calculated by logistic regression and by receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis. Subsets of fracture and control subjects were separately matched for Cn.BV/TV and Ct.Th.

Results: All structural indices differed between fracture patients and controls except Ct.BV/TV. There was a weak but highly significant correlation between Cn.BV/TV and Ct.Th in the entire group (r = 0.389, r2 = 0.151 p < 0.001). Many control subjects had a high value for one of these variables and a low value for the other. Ct.Th., Cn.BV/TV, and Tb.N were all significantly associated with vertebral fracture (ORs, 4.4–5.8; ROC area under the curve [AUC], 0.74–0.85). In subjects matched for Cn.BV/TV, Ct.Th was reduced by 29% (OR, 5.0), and in subjects matched for Ct.Th, Cn.BV/TV was reduced by 27% (OR, 5.0). In patients with deficits in both cortical and cancellous bone, the ORs (28–35) were much higher.

Conclusions: Deficits in cortical bone (reduced value for Ct.Th) and in cancellous bone (reduced values for Cn.BV/TV or Tb.N) were equally effective in discriminating between subjects with and without vertebral fracture. With a deficit in both cortical and cancellous bone, the association with vertebral fracture was much stronger. Vertebral fracture is not the result of disproportionate loss of cancellous bone in the patients as a whole, although individual patients may have relatively greater deficits in either cancellous or cortical bone.