The mechanical consequence of actual bone loss and simulated bone recovery in acute spinal cord injury

W. Brent Edwards*, Thomas J. Schnitzer, Karen L. Troy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Introduction: Spinal cord injury (SCI) is characterized by rapid bone loss and an increased risk of fragility fracture around regions of the knee. Our purpose was to quantify changes in torsional stiffness K and strength Tult at the proximal tibia due to actual bone loss and simulated bone recovery in acute SCI. Methods: Computed tomography scans were acquired on ten subjects with acute SCI at serial time points separated by a mean of 3.9months (range 3.0 to 4.8months). Reductions in bone mineral were quantified and a validated subject-specific finite element modeling procedure was used to predict changes in K and Tult. The modeling procedure was subsequently used to examine the effect of simulated hypothetical treatments, in which bone mineral of the proximal tibiae were restored to baseline levels, while all other parameters were held constant. Results: During the acute period of SCI, subjects lost 8.3±4.9% (p<0.001) of their bone mineral density (BMD). Reductions in K (-9.9±6.5%; p=0.002) were similar in magnitude to reductions in BMD, however reductions in Tult (-15.8±13.8%; p=0.005) were some 2 times greater than the reductions in BMD. Owing to structural changes in geometry and mineral distribution, Tult was not necessarily recovered when bone mineral was restored to baseline, but was dependent upon the degree of bone loss prior to hypothetical treatments (r≥0.719; p≤0.019). Conclusions: Therapeutic interventions to halt or attenuate bone loss associated with SCI should be implemented soon after injury in an attempt to preserve mechanical integrity and prevent fracture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-147
Number of pages7
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Bone fracture
  • Bone strength
  • Disuse osteoporosis
  • Finite element method

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Histology


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