The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between histomorphometric variables of cancellous bone structure and ultimate compressive strength (UCS) in the second lumbar vertebra (L2) and to determine whether structural variables in the iliac crest are predictive of the same variables and of UCS in L2. At autopsy, 7.5 mm diameter cores were removed from the iliac crest and from L2 of 29 subjects who had died suddenly without bone disease. Cancellous bone volume (BV/TV, %) was significantly lower in L2 than in iliac crest due to lower trabecular number (Tb.N, per mm) and thickness (Tb.Th, µm). There were significant correlations between iliac crest and L2 for BV/TV, Tb.N and trabecular separation (Tb.Sp, µm), but not for Tb.Th. BV/TV was negatively correlated, and Tb.Sp was positively correlated with age at both sites. Tb.Th was not significantly correlated with age in the iliac crest, but a significant negative correlation was observed in L2. The UCS of vertebral cores was negatively correlated with age. BV/TV and Tb.Th in L2 were positively correlated with UCS in L2. Cortical width and BV/TV in iliac crest were positively correlated with UCS in L2. We conclude that: (1) cancellous bone volume in the iliac crest is higher than in the lumbar spine due to thicker, more closely spaced trabecular plates, (2) the changes in structural variables with age are generally similar in the iliac crest and lumbar vertebra, but trabecular thinning with age is more evident in the spine than in the ilium, and (3) the compressive strength of cancellous bone in the lumbar spine is correlated with histomorphometric variables of bone structure, as measured both in the lumbar spine and in the iliac crest.
Bone histomorphometry; Bone mass; Cancellous bone structure; Cancellous bone strength