"Physiological osteoporosis" and "osteoblast insufficiency" in old age. Comparative radiological-morphometric and statistical studies on the spongy bone of lumbar and cervical vertebral bodies
Pesch, H.J.; Becker, T.; Bischoff, W.; Seibold, H.
Archives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery 110(1): 1-14
To investigate the expectation of general insufficiency of osteoblasts with increasing age, we studied autotopsy material from 105 deceased persons of both sexes who had died between 16 and 91 years and in whom clinically manifest diseases of the bone had been excluded. Quantitative morphometric examination of the structure of the spongy bone of the 3rd-5th lumbar vertebral bodies (LVBs) and of the 5th-7th cervical vertebral bodies (CVBs) was carried out in frontal and sagittal planes, the parameters analysed being volumetric density (Vv), surface density (Sv) and specific surface area (S/V), and the results were subjected to statistical evaluation. The results showed that in the three LVBs, Vv, Sv and S/V behave in a similar manner, Vv and Sv decreasing after the age of 50 years by more than one-third while S/V remains constant throughout life. The three lower CVBs had higher values than the LVBs for all three structural parameters. In the 7th CVB somewhat lower Vv and Sv values and higher S/V values were found than in the 5th and 6th. The age-related changes, by contrast, were very small. This differing behavior of the spongy bone in the two regions of the spinal column is an expression of the different characteristic loading forces in each regions: LVB loading is predominantly static, CVB loading mainly dynamic. Thus, from the functional point of view, what is known as "physiological osteoporosis due to ageing" is nothing more than adaptation by an ageing bone to physical activity, reflecting--like the bone of the young adult--the current loading of the cancellous bone by the actions of the musculoskeletal system. Since such physical activity is often age-related, the performance of the osteoblasts does not depend upon age per se, but merely on the remaining functional adaptive capacities of the ageing organism as whole.