Three-dimensional quantitative computed tomographic (QCT) studies of the lumbar spine were extended with finite element analysis (FEA) to include bone distribution in assessment of vertebral body strength. Fifty-nine FEA models were created from data from 43 patients, 28 with no evidence of osteoporosis and 15 with previous vertebral fractures. Simulated loads were applied to the vertebral models to estimate vertebral strength. Yield strength in the models from patients with osteoporosis was 0.22-1.05 MPa (average, 0.57 MPa ± 0.26 [mean ± standard deviation]), compared with 0.80-2.79 MPa (1.46 ± 0.52, P less than .001) in patients with normal bone. Yield strength of vertebrae in patients with osteoporosis uniformly fell below approximately 1.0 MPa, with minimal overlap between patients with osteoporosis and those with normal bone compared with the overlap in bone mineral content and trabecular mineral density. Reproducibility of the FEA technique was 12.1% in a subgroup of patients with normal bone. A constant relationship between cortical and trabecular contributions was observed in patients with osteoporosis but not in control patients.