Method-Based Differences in the Automated Analysis of the Three-Dimensional Morphology of Trabecular Bone

Authors

  • Craig A. Simmons,

    1. Orthopedic Biomechanics Laboratory, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Charles A. Dana Research Institute, Harvard Thorndike Laboratories, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
    Current affiliation:
    1. Centre for Biomaterials, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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  • John A. Hipp

    Corresponding author
    1. Orthopedic Biomechanics Laboratory, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Charles A. Dana Research Institute, Harvard Thorndike Laboratories, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
    Current affiliation:
    1. Institute for Spinal Disorders, Houston, Texas, U.S.A.
    • John A. Hipp, Ph.D. Institute for Spinal Disorders Suite 1900 6560 Fannin Houston, TX 77030 U.S.A.
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Abstract

The three-dimensional (3D) morphology of trabecular bone is frequently quantified using computer programs. However, there are no standardized implementations of morphology programs and many variations are possible. Even though programs may use the same basic method, results can be significantly different because of differences in implementation. Morphology data from different laboratories therefore may not be comparable. The method of directed secants, with parallel plate assumptions, is commonly used to quantify 3D morphology. We examined the effect of several variations in the implementation of this method on measurements of trabecular plate number (Tb.N), trabecular thickness, and trabecular spacing. Three-dimensional micromagnetic resonance images of 10 bovine trabecular bone specimens were analyzed using several variations of the directed secant method. An analysis of covariance with repeated measures suggested that variations in the algorithm used to count test line intersections, variations in the criteria used to classify a test coordinate as bone or marrow, and variations in the number of test grid rotations had significant effects on Tb.N (p < 0.0001). The largest difference in Tb.N (52%) was due to the method used to count test line intersections with the bone–marrow interface. Variations in the classification algorithm and variations in the number of test line grid rotations resulted in a 6% difference in Tb.N. The spacing of the test line grids did not affect Tb.N (p = 0.28), and all differences were independent of volume fraction (p = 0.67). These data show that there can be significant differences in trabecular bone morphology measurements due only to the method used for the measurements. To facilitate comparisons between laboratories, we have made validated computer programs to measure trabecular bone morphology available over the internet.

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