• microdamage;
  • microcrack;
  • human;
  • vertebral;
  • trabecular bone;
  • microarchitecture;
  • osteoporosis


It has been suggested that accumulation of microdamage with age contributes to skeletal fragility. However, data on the age-related increase in microdamage and the association between microdamage and trabecular microarchitecture in human vertebral cancellous bone are limited. We quantified microdamage in cancellous bone from human lumbar (L2) vertebral bodies obtained from 23 donors 54–93 yr of age (8 men and 15 women). Damage was measured using histologic techniques of sequential labeling with chelating agents and was related to 3D microarchitecture, as assessed by high-resolution μCT. There were no significant differences between sexes, although women tended to have a higher microcrack density (Cr.Dn) than men. Cr.Dn increased exponentially with age (r = 0.65, p < 0.001) and was correlated with bone volume fraction (BV/TV; r = −0.55; p < 0.01), trabecular number (Tb.N; r = −0.56 p = 0.008), structure model index (SMI; r = 0.59; p = 0.005), and trabecular separation (Tb.Sp; r = 0.59; p < 0.009). All architecture parameters were strongly correlated with each other and with BV/TV. Stepwise regression showed that SMI was the best predictor of microdamage, explaining 35% of the variance in Cr.Dn and 20% of the variance in diffuse damage accumulation. In addition, microcrack length was significantly greater in the highest versus lowest tertiles of SMI. In conclusion, in human vertebral cancellous bone, microdamage increases with age and is associated with low BV/TV and a rod-like trabecular architecture.