The measurement of bone mineral density (BMD) using X-rays is usually employed to monitor the mineral content in a given portion of bone. However, this method cannot differentiate between changes in bone volume or in degree of mineralization of the bone matrix. In contrast to BMD, bone mineral density distribution (BMDD), as measured on bone sections by quantitative backscattered electron imaging (qBEI), is able to distinguish differences in the degree of mineralization. For routine clinical research, we have validated the method of calibration and standardization of the backscattered electron (BE) signal. Carbon and aluminum were used as reference materials for BE gray levels and osteoid and apatite for calcium concentration. Experiments were performed to get knowledge about precision (intraassay variance—instrumental stability and interassay variance—reproducibility) and accuracy (standardization) of this method as well as the biological variance (intraindividual and interindividual) in human bone. On transiliac biopsies or necropsies from 20 individuals having had accidental death (13 females, 7 males, age 30–85 years) BMDD measurements were conducted. The patients’ medical history as well as the histomorphology of these bones showed no evidence of metabolic bone disease. For instance, the standard deviations of the weighted mean calcium concentrations were <0.3%, <0.4%, <0.9%, and <2.6% of the mean for the intraassay, interassay, intraindividual, and interindividual variations, respectively. In addition, a mean BMDD histogram for transiliac bone specimens was calculated from the 20 aforementioned individuals. The method used allows detection of the degree of mineralization independently from the actual bone volume, a result that seems to be of special interest in the assessment of the effect of treatments for osteoporosis. The power of this technique is demonstrated by using bone from a patient with a metabolic bone disease. In this case of osteomalacia due to celiac disease, the mean calcium concentration in the bone matrix was reduced by 19.3% as compared with normal.
Keywords: Backscattered electrons; Mineral density distribution; Human trabecular bone; Transiliac bone biopsy