Three-dimensional structural analysis of the proximal femur in an age-stratified sample of women

Kristy M. Nicks, Shreyasee Amin, L. Joseph Melton, Elizabeth J. Atkinson, Louise K. McCready, B. Lawrence Riggs, Klaus Engelke, Sundeep Khosla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Introduction: Aging is associated with worsening bone structure and increasing risk of hip fracture. However, the commonly used clinical tool, dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, does not provide information on changes with age or disease separately in trabecular versus cortical bone or in bone geometry. Here we used 3D quantitative computed tomography (QCT) to analyze age-related changes in femoral volumetric bone mineral density (vBMD) and structure in a well characterized, population-based cohort of Rochester, Minnesota women. Methods: MIAF-Femur (MIAF: medical image analysis framework) was used for the analysis of CT datasets from 358 women age 20 to 97. years. Integral, "apparent" cortical (rather than true cortical vBMD, due to volume averaging effects) and trabecular vBMD, volume, and bone mineral content (BMC) as well as cortical thickness of the femur head, neck, trochanter, inter-trochanteric, and proximal shaft volumes of interest (VOIs) were measured. In addition, changes in vBMD in the superior, inferior, posterior and anterior quadrants of the femur neck were assessed. Results: Cross-sectional percent decreases in vBMD across life were 2- to 5-fold higher in trabecular versus cortical bone at all sites in the femur, although absolute changes in the trabecular and cortical bone were fairly similar. In addition, the slopes of the relationships of trabecular vBMD with age were generally similar in pre- and postmenopausal women, whereas apparent cortical vBMD in the femur neck, trochanter, inter-trochanteric region, and proximal shaft remained relatively stable in premenopausal women but decreased significantly with age following the menopause. Bone volume increased at all sites, more so in pre- compared to postmenopausal women. Age-related BMC changes were not significant in premenopausal women, but BMC losses were highly significant in postmenopausal women. Detailed analyses of femur neck cortical bone showed that percent apparent vBMD decreases in the superior quadrants were 2- to 3-fold greater than in the inferior quadrants; changes in absolute values were most different (~. 2-fold) between the superior-posterior and inferior-posterior quadrants. Conclusions: These data demonstrate that patterns of changes with age within the femur differ in the trabecular versus cortical bone. In the cortical compartment which, due to limitations in spatial resolution, contains some subcortical bone and should be regarded as an "apparent" cortical VOI, the superior quadrants in the femur neck undergo the greatest decreases. These findings may have important implications for understanding the structural basis for increased hip fracture risk with aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-188
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • Aging
  • Femur
  • Osteoporosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Histology


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