Relationship between NMR transverse relaxation, trabecular bone architecture, and strength


Structure, biomechanical competence, and incremental NMR line broadening (R′2) of water in the intertrabecular spaces of cancellous bone were examined on 22 cylindrical specimens from the lumbar vertebral bodies of 16 human subjects 24-86 years old (mean, 60 years old). A strong association (r = 0.91; P < 0.0001) was found between Young's modulus of elasticity and R′2 for a wide range of values corresponding to cancellous bone of very different morphologic composition. NMR line broadening is caused by the inhomogeneity of the magnetic field induced as a consequence of the coexistence of two adjacent phases of different diamagnetic susceptibility - i.e., mineralized bone and water in the marrow spaces. Structural analyses performed by means of NMR microscopy and digital image processing indicated that the variation in R′2 is closely related to the trabecular microstructure. Mean trabecular plate density measured along the direction of the magnetic field was found to play a major role in predicting R′2 (r = 0.74; P < 0.0001). This behavior was confirmed when the plate density was varied in individual specimens, which was achieved by rotating the specimen, making use of the bone's structural anisotropy. It is concluded that the NMR transverse relaxation rate in human cancellous bone of the spine is significantly determined by trabecular structural parameters relevant to biomechanical strength. The results further underscore the important role played by the transverse trabeculae in contributing to cancellous bone strength. The work has implications on possible in vivo use or quantitative magnetic resonance for the assessment of fracture risk in osteoporotic patients.

Publication Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America