A comparison between micro-CT and histology for the evaluation of cortical bone: Effect of polymethylmethacrylate embedding on structural parameters

F. Particelli, L. Mecozzi, A. Beraudi, M. Montesi, F. Baruffaldi, M. Viceconti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cortical bone microstructure is an important parameter in the evaluation of bone strength. The aim of this study was to validate the characterization of human cortical bone microarchitecture using microcomputed tomography. In order to do this, microcomputed tomography structural measurements were compared with those obtained through histological examination (the gold standard). Moreover, to calculate structural parameters, microcomputed tomography images have to be binarized with the separation between bone and nonbone structures throughout a global thresholding. As the effect of the surrounding medium on the threshold value is not clear, an easy procedure to find the global uniform threshold for a given acquisition condition is applied. This work also compared the structural parameters of microcomputed tomography cortical sample scan in air or embedded in polymethylmethacrylate; histology was used as a reference. For each acquisition condition, a fixed threshold value was found and was applied on the corresponding microcomputed tomography image for the parameters assessment. Twenty cortical bone samples were collected from human femur and tibia diaphyses. All samples were microcomputed tomography scanned in air, embedded in polymethylmethacrylate, rescanned by microcomputed tomography, examined by histology and finally compared. A good correspondence between the microcomputed tomography images and the histological sections was found. Paired comparisons in cortical porosity, Haversian canal diameter and Haversian canal separation between histological sections and microcomputed tomography cross sections, first in air and then embedded in PolyMethylMethAcrylate, were made: no significant differences were found. None of the comparisons showed significant differences for cortical porosity, Haversian canal diameter and Haversian separation over a three-dimensional volume of interest, between microcomputed tomography scans in air and with samples embedded in PolyMethylMethAcrylate. The very good correlation between bone structural measures obtained from microcomputed tomography datasets and from two-dimensional histological sections confirms that microcomputed tomography may be an efficient tool for the characterization of cortical bone microstructure. Moreover, when the corresponding threshold value for each condition is used, structural parameters determined by microcomputed tomography are not affected by the surrounding medium (PolyMethylMethAcrylate).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)302-310
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Microscopy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


  • Cortical bone microstructure
  • Histology
  • Microcomputed tomography
  • PMMA embedding
  • Porosity
  • Thresholding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Histology
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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