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The Effect of Osteoporosis
on Bone Structure

The human skeleton comprises two different forms of bone.
  • Cortical, or compact bone, accounts for about 80% of the total skeletal mass and is located primarily in the peripheral skeleton.
  • Trabecular, or spongy bone, constitutes some 70% of the axial or central skeleton, and is visualised as a honeycomb of vertical and horizontal bars called trabeculae. It is within this region that human red marrow is almost exclusively located.
Because of these differences, the surface-to-volume ratio is much higher in trabecular than cortical bone and accordingly bone remodelling has a greater effect on trabecular bone. Thus bone remodelling, the process which replaces old bone with new has an annual turnover rate of about 25% in trabecular and 2-3% in cortical bone.

Cross-section of a vertebral segment from a normal person showing the pattern of spinal trabecular bone

Cross-section of a vertebral segment from a patient with osteoporosis showing the 'thinning' and loss of spinal trabecular bone, which compromises the overall mechanical strength of the bone


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