• trabecular bone;
  • microstructure;
  • osteoporosis;
  • sex;
  • heterogeneity


In this study, we characterize bone microstructure, specifically sex differences, at multiple skeletal sites in 165 subjects >52 yr of age, using μCT technology in vitro. Significant sex differences are observed at the distal radius, femoral neck, and femoral trochanter, but not at the iliac crest, calcaneus, and lumbar vertebral body. Correlations in BV/TV between sites ranged from r = 0.13 to 0.56.

Introduction: The goals of this study were (1) to assess potential sex differences of bone microstructure and their difference between skeletal sites and (2) to explore the relationship of trabecular microstructural properties between relevant skeletal sites.

Materials and Methods: Trabecular bone microstructural properties were measured in vitro in 165 subjects 52–99 yr of age using μCT. Defined volumes of interest (cylinders with 6 mm diameter and 6 mm length) were scanned at a resolution of 26 μm (isotropic) in six different anatomical sites: distal radius, femoral neck and trochanter, iliac crest, calcaneus, and second lumbar vertebral body.

Results: At the radius and femoral neck, trabecular bone displayed a more plate-like structure, thicker trabeculae, smaller separation/higher trabecular number, higher connectivity, and a higher degree of anisotropy in men than in women (p < 0.05). At the trochanter, men displayed more plate-like structure and thicker trabeculae (p < 0.05), but no differences in trabecular separation or other parameters compared with the women. At the calcaneus, iliac crest, and second lumbar vertebra none of the bone parameters displayed significant differences between sexes. The BV/TV at one site explained a range of only 2–32% of the variability at other sites.

Conclusions: These results suggest that trabecular bone microstructural properties are remarkably heterogeneous throughout the skeleton. Significant differences between men and women are observed at some, but not at all, sites. The magnitude of sex differences in trabecular microstructure coincides with that of fracture incidence observed for some of the sites in epidemiological studies.