The development of bone strength at the proximal radius during childhood and adolescence

  • Schoenau E
  • Neu C
  • Rauch F
 et al. 
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Current investigations of bone development mostly focus on bone mass, but bone strength may be functionally more important than mass. Therefore, we compared the developmental changes in cortical bone mass (BMCcort) and parameters of cortical bone strength [polar moment of inertia, section modulus, and strength strain index (SSI)]. Analyses were performed at the 65% site of the proximal radius using peripheral quantitative computed tomography. The study population comprised 469 healthy subjects, 6-40 yr of age (273 females). Both in prepubertal children (pubertal stage 1) and after puberty (pubertal stage 5 and adults) all studied parameters were significantly higher in males. During puberty (pubertal stages 2-4) the gender-specific differences were generally somewhat smaller. All of the measured parameters increased significantly with age and pubertal stage. However, although the percent increase in BMCcort between the youngest children and adults was similar between the genders, the increases in polar moment of inertia, section modulus, and SSI were higher in males. The ratio between section modulus and BMCcort was consistently higher in males after the age of 11 yr and after pubertal stage 2. Similar results were found for ratios between polar moment of inertia or SSI and BMCcort. These results show that for a given bone mass, males have stronger bones than females after pubertal stage 2. This reflects the fact that in puberty males add bone mostly on the periosteal surface, where the effect on bone strength is highest, whereas females add bone on the endocortical surface, which has a small effect on bone stability. The purpose of the mechanically inefficient endocortical apposition in female puberty might be to create a reservoir of calcium for future pregnancy and lactation.

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  • E. Schoenau

  • C. M. Neu

  • F. Rauch

  • F. Manz

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