Trabecular Structure Quantified With the MRI-Based Virtual Bone Biopsy in Postmenopausal Women Contributes to Vertebral Deformity Burden Independent of Areal Vertebral BMD


  • Dr Wehrli is a Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of MicroMRI. All other authors state that they have no conflicts of interest.


In postmenopausal women with a wide range of vertebral deformities, MRI-based structural measures of topology and scale at the distal radius are shown to account for as much as 30% of vertebral deformity, independent of integral vertebral BMD.

Introduction: Trabecular bone architecture has been postulated to contribute to overall bone strength independent of vertebral BMD measured by DXA. However, there has thus far been only sparse in vivo evidence to support this hypothesis.

Materials and Methods: Postmenopausal women, 60-80 yr of age, were screened by DXA, and those with T-scores at either the hip or spine falling within the range of −2.5 ± 1.0 were studied with the MRI-based virtual bone biopsy, along with heel broadband ultrasound absorption and pQCT of the tibia. The data from 98 subjects meeting the enrollment criteria were subjected to νMRI at the distal tibia and radius, and measures of topology and scale of the trabecular bone network were computed. A spinal deformity index (SDI) was obtained from morphometric measurements in midline sagittal MR images of the thoracic and lumbar spine to evaluate associations between structure and deformity burden.

Results: A number of structural indices obtained at the distal radius were correlated with the SDI. Among these were the topological surface density (a measure of trabecular plates) and trabecular bone volume fraction, which were inversely correlated with SDI (p < 0.0001). Combinations of two structural parameters accounted for up to 30% of the variation in SDI (p < 0.0001) independent of spinal BMD, which was not significantly correlated. pQCT trabecular BMD was also weakly associated, whereas broadband ultrasound absorption was not. No significant association between SDI and structural indices were found at the tibia.

Conclusions: Structural measures at the distal radius obtained in vivo by νMRI explained a significant portion of the variation in total spinal deformity burden in postmenopausal women independent of areal BMD.