Spinal cord injury (SCI) is characterized by marked bone loss and a high rate of low-energy fracture around regions of the knee. Changes in the mechanical integrity of bone after SCI are poorly defined, and a better understanding may inform approaches to prevent fractures. The purpose of this study was to quantify reductions in torsional stiffness and strength at the proximal tibia as a function of time since SCI. Sixty adults with SCI ranging from 0 to 50 years of duration and a reference group of 10 able-bodied controls received a CT scan of the proximal tibia. Measures of integral bone mineral were calculated for the total proximal tibia, and localized measures of cortical and trabecular bone mineral were calculated for the epiphysis, metaphysis, and diaphysis. Torsional stiffness (K) and strength (Tult) for the total proximal tibia were quantified using validated subject-specific finite element models. Total proximal tibia measures of integral bone mineral, K, and Tult decreased exponentially (r2 = 0.52 to 0.70) and reached a new steady state within 2.1 to 2.7 years after SCI. Whereas new steady-state values for integral bone mineral and K were 52% to 56% (p < 0.001) lower than the reference group, the new steady state for Tult was 69% (p < 0.001) lower than the reference group. Reductions in total proximal tibia measures occurred through a combination of trabecular and endocortical resorption, leaving a bone comprised primarily of marrow fat rather than hydroxyapatite. These findings illustrate that a short therapeutic window exists early (ie, 2 years) after SCI, during which bone-specific intervention may attenuate reductions in mechanical integrity and ultimately prevent SCI-related fragility fracture.
- BONE FRACTURE
- BONE STRENGTH
- DISUSE OSTEOPOROSIS
- FINITE ELEMENT MODEL
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine