Volume fraction, the single most important parameter in describing trabecular microstructure, can easily be calculated from three-dimensional reconstructions of micro-CT images. This study sought to quantify the accuracy of this measurement. One hundred and sixty human cancellous bone specimens which covered a large range of volume fraction (9.8-39.8%) were produced. The specimens were micro-CT scanned, and the volume fraction based on Archimedes' principle was determined as a reference. After scanning, all micro-CT data were segmented using individual thresholds determined by the scanner supplied algorithm (method I). A significant deviation of volume fraction from method I was found; both the y-intercept and the slope of the regression line were significantly different from those of the Archimedes- based volume fraction (p < 0.001). New individual thresholds were determined based on a calibration of volume fraction to the Archimedes-based volume fractions (method II). The mean thresholds of the two methods were applied to segment 20 randomly selected specimens. The results showed that volume fraction using the mean threshold of method I was underestimated by 4% (p = 0.001), whereas the mean threshold of method II yielded accurate values. The precision of the measurement was excellent. Our data show that care must be taken when applying thresholds in generating 3-D data, and that a fixed threshold may be used to obtain reliable volume fraction data. This fixed threshold may be determined from the Archimedes-based volume fraction of a subgroup of specimens. The threshold may vary between different materials, and so it should be determined whenever a study series is performed.
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