Fractal analysis of radiographs: assessment of trabecular bone structure and prediction of elastic modulus and strength.

Research paper by S S Majumdar, J J Lin, T T Link, J J Millard, P P Augat, X X Ouyang, D D Newitt, R R Gould, M M Kothari, H H Genant

Indexed on: 06 Aug '99Published on: 06 Aug '99Published in: Medical physics


The purpose of this study was to determine whether fractal dimension of radiographs provide measures of trabecular bone structure which correlate with bone mineral density (BMD) and bone biomechanics, and whether these relationships depend on the technique used to calculate the fractal dimension. Eighty seven cubic specimen of human trabecular bone were obtained from the vertebrae and femur. The cubes were radiographed along all three orientations--superior-inferior (SI), medial-lateral (ML), and anterior-posterior (AP), digitized, corrected for background variations, and fractal based techniques were applied to quantify trabecular structure. Three different techniques namely, semivariance, surface area, and power spectral methods were used. The specimens were tested in compression along three orientations and the Young's modulus (YM) was determined. Compressive strength was measured along the SI direction. Quantitative computed tomography was used to measure trabecular BMD. High-resolution magnetic-resonance images were used to obtain three-dimensional measures of trabecular architecture such as the apparent bone volume fraction, trabecular thickness, spacing, and number. The measures of trabecular structure computed in the different directions showed significant differences (p<0.05). The correlation between BMD, YM, strength, and the fractal dimension were direction and technique dependent. The trends of variation of the fractal dimension with BMD and biomechanical properties also depended on the technique and the range of resolutions over which the data was analyzed. The fractal dimension showed varying trends with bone mineral density changes, and these trends also depended on the range of frequencies over which the fractal dimension was measured. For example, using the power spectral method the fractal dimension increased with BMD when computed over a lower range of spatial frequencies and decreased for higher ranges. However, for the surface area technique the fractal dimension increased with increasing BMD. Fractal measures showed better correlation with trabecular spacing and number, compared to trabecular thickness. In a multivariate regression model inclusion of some of the fractal measures in addition to BMD improved the prediction of strength and elastic modulus. Thus, fractal based texture analysis of radiographs are technique dependent, but may be used to quantify trabecular structure and have a potentially valuable impact in the study of osteoporosis.