Peripheral quantitative computed tomography provides an automatical scan analysis of trabecular and cortical bone compartments, calculating not only their bone mineral density (BMD), but also bone geometrical parameters, such as marrow and cortical Cross-Sectional Area (CSA), Cortical Thickness (CoTh), both periosteal and endosteal circumference, as well as biomechanical parameters like Cross-Sectional Moment of Inertia (CSMI), a measure of bending, polar moment of inertia, indicating bone strength in torsion, and Strength Strain Index (SSI). Also CSA of muscle and fat can be extracted. Muscles, which are thought to stimulate bones to adapt their geometry and mineral content, are determinant to preserve or increase bone strength; thus, pQCT provides an evaluation of the functional 'muscle-bone unit', defined as BMC/muscle CSA ratio. This functional approach to bone densitometry can establish if bone strength is normally adapted to the muscle force, and if muscle force is adequate for body size, providing more detailed insights to targeted strategies for the prevention and treatment of bone fragility. The present paper offers an extensive review of technical features of pQCT and its possible clinical application in the diagnostic of bone status as well as in the monitoring of the skeleton's health follow-up.
Keywords: Bone mass; Bone mineral density; Bone mineralization; Fat area; Muscle area; Osteoporosis; Peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT).