A thorough understanding of the microstructure of cancellous bone is crucial for diagnosis, prophylaxis, and treatment of age-related skeletal diseases. Until now, little has been known about age-related variations in the microstructure of peripheral cancellous bone. This study quantified age-related changes in the three-dimensional (3D) microstructure of human tibial cancellous bone. One hundred and sixty cylindrical cancellous bone specimens were produced from 40 normal proximal tibiae from 40 donors, aged 16–85 years. These specimens were micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) scanned, and microstructural properties were determined. The specimens were then tested in compression to obtain Young's modulus.
The degree of anisotropy, mean marrow space volume, and bone surface-to-volume ratio increased significantly with age. Bone volume fraction, mean trabecular volume, and bone surface density decreased significantly with age. Connectivity did not have a general relationship with age. Bone volume fraction together with anisotropy best predicted Young's modulus. Age-related changes in the microstructural properties had the same trends for both medial and lateral condyles of the tibia. The observed increase of anisotropy and constant connectivity suggest a bone remodeling mechanism that may reorient trabecular volume orientation in aging tibial cancellous bone. The aging trabeculae align more strongly to the primary direction - parallel to the tibial longitudinal loading axis.