Accumulation of microdamage in vivo may lead to loss of bone quality. Until recently, linear microcracks were the only known form of in vivo microdamage, but through the use of confocal microscopy an additional level of damage (diffuse damage) has been identified. In this study, in vivo diffuse damage was characterized and quantified in human vertebral trabecular bone as a function of tissue morphology, age, race, gender, and previously quantified in vivo linear microcracks. Presence of diffuse damage in human vertebral tissue was confirmed and validated by simultaneous use of polarized, ultraviolet, and laser confocal microscopy. Diffuse damage was found to occur preferentially within trabecular packets rather than in interstitial bone (p < 0.05). It was consistently higher in men compared with women (p < 0.05), but was not different by race or age group. Diffuse damage did not correlate with linear microcracks, but both exhibited the same probability distribution in which the percentage of individuals having a particular amount of damage decreased exponentially as damage content increased. These findings suggest that diffuse damage accumulation and repair are governed by the same biological phenomena as microcracks, but diffuse damage contributes independently to the microdamage content of bone.
Keywords: Bone quality; Damage; Vertebrae; Trabecular bone; Gender; Age; Race