An Automated Analysis of Intracortical Porosity in Human Femoral Bone Across Age



The matrix of human cortical bone is arranged around a network of vascular spaces (hereafter referred to as “pores”). Our aim was to investigate age-related differences in human cortical porosity (total pore area divided by cortical bone area), pore size and number, and surface to volume ratios, while adjusting for sex, height, and weight. Ninety-six specimens of entire transverse sections of human femoral diaphysis, from subjects aged 21–92 years, were examined. We used our established automated image acquisition and analysis system which measures pores from entire sections of multiple specimens of bone. Over 400,000 pores were recorded. Results showed a greater porosity in older bone (p < 0.01) but marked variation in porosity for any given age. The cohort median, of the specimen medians, of pore cross-sectional area was 2050 μm2. Older specimens did not have more pores than younger specimens but had a greater proportion of larger pores (p < 0.05) and greater intraspecimen variation in pore size (p < 0.001). The pore surface to bone matrix volume ratio was a median 2.3 mm2/mm3. This varied more than 4-fold between individuals but did not relate to age. No simple relationships were found between any of the measured parameters and either sex, height, or weight, even after adjustment for age. We conclude that the greater porosity in older specimens is due to greater pore size rather than a larger number of pores. Age, however, explains little of the inter-individual variation in the parameters studied.