The study presents a 3D method for subdividing a trabecular network into horizontal and vertical oriented bone. This method was used to investigate the age related changes of the bone volume fraction and thickness of horizontal and vertical trabeculae in human lumbar vertebral bone estimated with unbiased 3D methods in women and men over a large age-range.
The study comprised second lumbar vertebral body bone samples from 40 women (aged 21.7–96.4 years, median 56.6 years) and 39 men (aged 22.6–94.6 years, median 55.6 years). The bone samples were μCT scanned and the 3D microstructure was quantified. A voxel based algorithm inspecting the local neighborhood is presented and used to segment the trabecular network into horizontal and vertical oriented bone.
For both women and men BV/TV decreased significantly with age, Tb.Th* was independent of age, while SMI increased significantly with age. Vertical (BV.vert/TV) and horizontal (BV.horz/TV) bone volume fraction decreased significantly with age for both sexes. BV.vert/TV decreased significantly faster with age for women than for men. Vertical (Tb.Th*.vert) and horizontal (Tb.Th*.horz) trabecular thickness were independent of age, while Tb.Th*.horz/Tb.Th*.vert decreased significantly with age for both sexes. Additionally, the 95th percentile of the trabecular thickness distribution increased significantly with age for vertical trabeculae in women, whereas it was independent of age in men.
In conclusion, we have shown that vertical and horizontal oriented bone density decreases with age in both women and men, and that vertical oriented bone is lost more quickly in women than in men. Furthermore, vertical and horizontal trabecular thickness were independent of age, whereas the horizontal to vertical trabecular thickness ratio decreased significantly with age indicating a relatively more pronounced thinning of horizontal trabeculae. Finally, the age-related loss of trabecular elements appeared to result in a compensatory hypertrophy of vertical trabeculae in women, but not in men.