Guidelines for assessment of bone microstructure in rodents using micro-computed tomography

J Bone Miner Res. 2010 Jul;25(7):1468-86. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.141.


Use of high-resolution micro-computed tomography (microCT) imaging to assess trabecular and cortical bone morphology has grown immensely. There are several commercially available microCT systems, each with different approaches to image acquisition, evaluation, and reporting of outcomes. This lack of consistency makes it difficult to interpret reported results and to compare findings across different studies. This article addresses this critical need for standardized terminology and consistent reporting of parameters related to image acquisition and analysis, and key outcome assessments, particularly with respect to ex vivo analysis of rodent specimens. Thus the guidelines herein provide recommendations regarding (1) standardized terminology and units, (2) information to be included in describing the methods for a given experiment, and (3) a minimal set of outcome variables that should be reported. Whereas the specific research objective will determine the experimental design, these guidelines are intended to ensure accurate and consistent reporting of microCT-derived bone morphometry and density measurements. In particular, the methods section for papers that present microCT-based outcomes must include details of the following scan aspects: (1) image acquisition, including the scanning medium, X-ray tube potential, and voxel size, as well as clear descriptions of the size and location of the volume of interest and the method used to delineate trabecular and cortical bone regions, and (2) image processing, including the algorithms used for image filtration and the approach used for image segmentation. Morphometric analyses should be based on 3D algorithms that do not rely on assumptions about the underlying structure whenever possible. When reporting microCT results, the minimal set of variables that should be used to describe trabecular bone morphometry includes bone volume fraction and trabecular number, thickness, and separation. The minimal set of variables that should be used to describe cortical bone morphometry includes total cross-sectional area, cortical bone area, cortical bone area fraction, and cortical thickness. Other variables also may be appropriate depending on the research question and technical quality of the scan. Standard nomenclature, outlined in this article, should be followed for reporting of results.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Density
  • Bone and Bones / blood supply
  • Bone and Bones / ultrastructure*
  • Female
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Mice
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Synchrotrons
  • X-Ray Microtomography / methods*
  • X-Ray Microtomography / standards