• magnetic resonance;
  • osteoporosis;
  • vertebral fractures;
  • calcaneus


Quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (QMRI) allows measurement of two parameters that are related to the integrity of the trabecular bone: R2, the rate constant of the free induction signal, and trabecular bone volume fraction (BVF), the counterpart of apparent density. In this work, R2 and BVF were measured in 68 women (mean age, 58.2 ± 9.5 years) of varying spinal bone mineral density (BMD) T scores (mean, −1.37 ± 1.54) and vertebral fracture status on a commercial 1.5 T whole-body imager using customized image acquisition and processing techniques. Twenty-five of the patients had vertebral fractures, characterized by the total cumulative deformity burden exceeding 200%. R2 was measured in the calcaneus and proximal femur and BVF could be measured in the calcaneus only. On a pixel-by-pixel basis, calcaneal R2 and BVF within each subject were highly positively correlated (r2 = 0.61 ± 0.11) but the correlation of region-of-interest (ROI) means for different calcaneal sites among patients was weaker (r2 = 0.34; p < 0.0001). The strongest discriminator of vertebral deformity was R2 of the calcaneus, which was lower in the fracture group, consistent with lower trabecular density. Among the calcaneal sites examined, the subtalar region, a location characterized by dense nearly horizontal trabeculae that transmit the stresses imparted by body weight from the tibia to the heel, best discriminated the two groups (p = 0.0001), with 77% diagnostic accuracy as determined from the area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve (compared with 66% for vertebral BMD). The cavum calcanei, an anterior site of low trabecular density, and the tuber calcanei (the location ordinarily used for ultrasound measurements) also had significantly reduced R2 in the fracture group (p < 0.005 and p = 0.01, respectively). The R2av, computed as the average of all pixels in the calcaneus, was a strong discriminator as well (p < 0.005). On the other hand, calcaneal BVF was only marginally discriminating (p = 0.05). Among the BMD sites examined, the lumbar spine (average L1-L4) was significant (p = 0.005, 66% diagnostic accuracy), as was the femoral neck (p = 0.01). The data suggest the calcaneus to be suited as a surrogate site to assess vertebral osteoporosis and that R2 is sensitive to alterations in bone quality not captured by density.