Discrepancies in finite-element model predictions of bone strength may be attributed to the simplified modeling of bone as an isotropic structure due to the resolution limitations of clinical-level Computed Tomography (CT) data. The aim of this study is to calculate the preferential orientations of bone (the principal directions) and the extent to which bone is deposited more in one direction compared to another (degree of anisotropy). Using 100 femoral trabecular samples, the principal directions and degree of anisotropy were calculated with a Gradient Structure Tensor (GST) and a Sobel Structure Tensor (SST) using clinical-level CT. The results were compared against those calculated with the gold standard Mean-Intercept-Length (MIL) fabric tensor using micro-CT. There was no significant difference between the GST and SST in the calculation of the main principal direction (median error=28°), and the error was inversely correlated to the degree of transverse isotropy (r=−0.34, p<0.01). The degree of anisotropy measured using the structure tensors was weakly correlated with the MIL-based measurements (r=0.2, p<0.001). Combining the principal directions with the degree of anisotropy resulted in a significant increase in the correlation of the tensor distributions (r=0.79, p<0.001). Both structure tensors were robust against simulated noise, kernel sizes, and bone volume fraction. We recommend the use of the GST because of its computational efficiency and ease of implementation. This methodology has the promise to predict the structural anisotropy of bone in areas with a high degree of anisotropy, and may improve the in vivo characterization of bone.
Clinical quantitative computed tomography; Finite-element model; Gradient structure tensor; Sobel structure tensor; Trabecular bone strength