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For the clinical assessment of osteoporosis (i.e., a degenerative bone disease associated with increased fracture risk), ultrasound has been proposed as an alternative or supplement to the dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) technique. However, the interaction of ultrasound waves with (trabecular) bone remains relatively poorly understood. The present study aimed to improve this understanding by simulating ultrasound wave propagation in 15 trabecular bone samples from the human lumbar spine, using microcomputed tomography-based finite-element modeling. The model included only the solid bone, without the bone marrow. Two structural parameters were calculated: the bone volume fraction (BV/TV) and the structural (apparent) elastic modulus (Es), and the ultrasound propagation parameter speed of sound (SOS). Relations between BV/TV and Es were similar to published experimental relations. At 1 MHz, correlations between SOS and the structural parameters BV/TV and Es were rather weak, but the results can be explained from the specific features of the trabecular structure and the intrinsic material elastic modulus Ei. In particular, the systematic differences between the three main directions provide information on the trabecular structure. In addition, at 1 MHz the correlation found between the simulated SOS values and those calculated from the simple bar equation was poor when the three directions are considered separately. Hence, under these conditions, the homogenization approach - including the bar equation - is not valid. However, at lower frequencies (50-300 kHz) this correlation significantly improved. It is concluded that detailed analysis of ultrasound wave propagation through the solid structure in various directions and with various frequencies, can yield much information on the structural and mechanical properties of trabecular bone.
Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control, IEEE Transactions on (Volume:55 , Issue: 6 )
Date of Publication: June 2008