Technology Insight: noninvasive assessment of bone strength in osteoporosis

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Abstract

SUMMARY

Fractures that result from osteoporosis are an enormous and growing concern for public health systems; as the population ages, the number of fractures worldwide will double or triple in the next 50 years. The ability of a bone to resist fracture depends not only on the amount of bone present, but also on the spatial distribution of the bone mass, the cortical and trabecular microarchitecture, and the intrinsic properties of the materials that comprise the bone. Although low bone mineral density is one of the strongest risk factors for fracture, a number of clinical studies have demonstrated the limitations of using measurements of areal bone mineral density by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry to assess fracture risk and to monitor responses to therapy. As a result, new, noninvasive imaging techniques that are capable of assessing various components of bone strength are being developed. These techniques include three-dimensional assessments of bone density, geometry and microarchitecture, as well as integrated measurements of bone strength by engineering analyses. Although they show strong potential, further development and validation of these techniques is needed to define their role in the clinical management of individuals with osteoporosis.

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