In order to evaluate in vivo the entity of endosteal and periosteal changes with age in the two sexes, and their relative contribution to age-related cortical bone loss, we undertook a cross-sectional study on a population of normal Caucasian subjects. The group included 189 women and 107 men who were studied by photodensitometry and radiogrammetry of the second metacarpal bone, derived from the same standard hand X-ray. Of the subjects, 134 were 65 years of age or older (75 women and 59 men). Metacarpal bone mineral density (BMD) correlated with age in both sexes, with an annual bone loss rate of 0.5% in women and 0.15% in men. In the over 65 group, correlation was significant only in women, who underwent an acceleration in the rate of bone loss (1 % per year). Marrow cavity width (M), cortical index at the second metacarpal shaft (MI) and external width (W) all correlated with age in both sexes, although generally better in the female than in the male sex. M almost doubled from the fourth to the ninth decade in women and increased 50% in men. In the same age interval, MI showed an annual decrease of 0.49% in females and 0.33% in males. In the over 65 group, cortical thinning rate was significant in women (0.39% per annum) but not in men (0.14% per annum), whereas correlation of W was not significant in either sex. Finally, MI correlated with BMD in the whole study population and in the over 65, with a female prevalence in correlation strength maintained throughout life. The following conclusions can be derived for metacarpal aging: (1) an acceleration in cortical bone loss occurs in females after age 65; (2) age-related growth in periosteal diameter, although significant in the whole population, is negligible in the elderly of both sexes; (3) age-related cortical bone loss is generally more dependent on cortical thinning in women than in men.
- Cortical bone
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