Bone Mineral Content per Muscle Cross-Sectional Area as an Index of the Functional Muscle-Bone Unit


  • All authors have no conflict of interest


Bone densitometric data often are difficult to interpret in children and adolescents because of large inter- and intraindividual variations in bone size. Here, we propose a functional approach to bone densitometry that addresses two questions: Is bone strength normally adapted to the largest physiological loads, that is, muscle force? Is muscle force adequate for body size? To implement this approach, forearm muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) and bone mineral content (BMC) of the radial diaphysis were measured in 349 healthy subjects from 6 to 19 years of age (183 girls), using peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT). Reference data were established for height-dependent muscle CSA and for the variation with age in the BMC/muscle CSA ratio. These reference data were used to evaluate results from three pediatric patient groups: children who had sustained multiple fractures without adequate trauma (n = 11), children with preterminal chronic renal failure (n = 11), and renal transplant recipients (n = 15). In all three groups mean height, muscle CSA, and BMC were low for age, but muscle CSA was normal for height. In the multiple fracture group and in renal transplant recipients the BMC/muscle CSA ratio was decreased (p < 0.05), suggesting that bone strength was not adapted adequately to muscle force. In contrast, chronic renal failure patients had a normal BMC/muscle CSA ratio, suggesting that their musculoskeletal system was adapted normally to their (decreased) body size. This functional approach to pediatric bone densitometric data should be adaptable to a variety of densitometric techniques.