Influence of Bone Tissue Density and Elasticity on Ultrasound Propagation: An In Vitro Study



Ultrasound (US) waves are mechanical vibrations that are applied to a material—bone tissue—in order to study its properties, that is, density, elasticity, and structure. In this study we evaluated in which way density and elasticity of the spongy bone influenced the transmission of 1.25 MHz US pulses. Twelve cylindrical specimens (diameter, 8 mm; height, 5 mm) excised from phalanxes of pig were decalcified with 0.5 M EDTA for different times (0, 2, and 5 days). During these periods, the samples underwent the following investigations: US transmission, density, and elasticity measurements. To assess the homogeneity of decalcification, the cross-sections of some samples were microradiographed. A detailed analysis of the US signal received was performed using velocity, Fourier analysis, and some parameters typical of signal processing technique. A good correlation was found between US velocity and density (r2 = 0.70); a lower correlation was found between velocity and elasticity (r2 = 0.59). If density and elasticity are considered simultaneously, the correlation with the US velocity improves significantly (r2 = 0.84). Fourier analysis enabled us to observe a shift of the main frequency toward lower values as the decalcification process advanced. We also observed that in the regressions weighted for density, US velocity correlated poorly with elasticity (r2 = 0.16), whereas signal processing parameters maintain a good correlation with elasticity (ultrasound peak amplitude [UPA], r2 = 0.48; slope, r2 = 0.62). In this study, it has been observed that when using a signal processing technique to analyze US pulses, it is possible to identify some parameters that are related in different ways to density and to elastic properties of bone. Our results show the potentiality of US technique to separate information on bone density and elasticity that X-ray-based densitometric methods do not provide.