Quantification of the effect of osteolytic metastases on bone strain within whole vertebrae using image registration.

Research paper by Michael R MR Hardisty, Margarete K MK Akens, Seyed-Parsa SP Hojjat, Albert A Yee, Cari M CM Whyne

Indexed on: 04 Jan '12Published on: 04 Jan '12Published in: Journal of Orthopaedic Research


The vertebral column is the most frequent site of metastatic involvement of the skeleton with up to 1/3 of all cancer patients developing spinal metastases. Longer survival times for patients, particularly secondary to breast cancer, have increased the need for better understanding the impact of skeletal metastases on structural stability. This study aims to apply image registration to calculate strain distributions in metastatically involved rodent vertebrae utilizing µCT imaging. Osteolytic vertebral lesions were developed in five rnu/rnu rats 2-3 weeks post intracardiac injection with MT-1 human breast cancer cells. An image registration algorithm was used to calculate and compare strain fields due to axial compressive loading in metastatically involved and control vertebrae. Tumor-bearing vertebrae had greatly increased compressive strains, double the magnitude of strain compared to control vertebrae (p=0.01). Qualitatively strain concentrated within the growth plates in both tumor bearing and control vertebrae. Most interesting was the presence of strain concentrations at the dorsal wall in metastatically involved vertebrae, suggesting structural instability. Strain distributions, quantified by image registration were consistent with known consequences of lytic involvement. Metastatically involved vertebrae had greater strain magnitude than control vertebrae. Strain concentrations at the dorsal wall in only the metastatic vertebrae, were consistent with higher incidence of burst fracture secondary to this pathology. Future use of image registration of whole vertebrae will allow focused examination of the efficacy of targeted and systemic treatments in reducing strains and the related risk of fracture in pathologic bones under simple and complex loading.