Development of new criteria for cortical bone histomorphometry in femoral neck: intra- and inter-observer reproducibility


Xiao-Yu Tong, Markus Malo, Inari S. Tamminen, Hanna Isaksson, Jukka S. Jurvelin, Heikki Kröger


Histomorphometry is commonly applied to study bone remodeling. Histological definitions of cortical bone boundaries have not been consistent. In this study, new criteria for specific definition of the transitional zone between the cortical and cancellous bone in the femoral neck were developed. The intra- and inter-observer reproducibility of this method was determined by quantitative histomorphometry and areal overlapping analysis. The undecalcified histological sections of femoral neck specimens (n = 6; from men aged 17–59 years) were processed and scanned to acquire histological images of complete bone sections. Specific criteria were applied to define histological boundaries. “Absolute cortex area” consisted of pure cortical bone tissue only, and was defined mainly based on the size of composite canals and their distance to an additional “guide” boundary (so-called “preliminary cortex boundary,” the clear demarcation line of density between compact cortex and sparse trabeculae). Endocortical bone area was defined by recognizing characteristic endocortical structures adjacent to the preliminary cortical boundary. The present results suggested moderate to high reproducibility for low-magnification parameters (e.g., cortical bone area). The coefficient of variation (CV %) ranged from 0.02 to 5.61 in the intra-observer study and from 0.09 to 16.41 in the inter-observer study. However, the intra-observer reproducibility of some high-magnification parameters (e.g., osteoid perimeter/endocortical perimeter) was lower (CV %, 0.33–87.9). The overlapping of three histological areas in repeated analyses revealed highest intra- and inter-observer reproducibility for the absolute cortex area. This study provides specific criteria for the definition of histological boundaries for femoral neck bone specimens, which may aid more precise cortical bone histomorphometry.

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