Menopause-Related Appendicular Bone Loss is Mainly Cortical and Results in Increased Cortical Porosity

J Bone Miner Res. 2018 Apr;33(4):598-605. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.3333. Epub 2017 Dec 8.


After menopause, remodeling becomes unbalanced and rapid. Each of the many remodeling transactions deposits less bone than it resorbed, producing microstructural deterioration. Trabecular bone is said to be lost more rapidly than cortical bone. However, because 80% of the skeleton is cortical, we hypothesized that most menopause-related bone loss and changes in bone microstructure are cortical, not trabecular in origin, and are the result of intracortical remodeling. Distal tibial and distal radial microstructure were quantified during 3.1 years (range, 1.5 to 4.5 years) of follow-up using high-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography and StrAx software in 199 monozygotic and 125 dizygotic twin pairs aged 25 to 75 years in Melbourne, Australia. The annual increases in tibial cortical porosity accelerated, being 0.44%, 0.80%, and 1.40% in women remaining premenopausal, transitioning to perimenopause, and from perimenopausal to postmenopause, respectively. Porosity increased in the compact-appearing, outer, and inner transitional zones of the cortex (all p < 0.001). The annual decrease in trabecular bone volume/tissue volume (BV/TV) also accelerated, being 0.17%, 0.26%, and 0.31%, respectively. Little bone loss was observed before menopause. The reduction in BV/TV was due to a decrease in trabecular number (p < 0.001). The greatest bone loss, 7.7 mg hydroxyapatite (HA) annually, occurred in women transitioning from perimenopausal to postmenopause and of this, 6.1 mg HA (80%) was cortical. Results were similar for the distal radius. Despite microarchitectural changes, no significant bone loss was observed before menopause. Over 90% of appendicular bone loss occurs during and after menopause, over 80% is cortical, and this may explain why 80% of fractures are appendicular. © 2017 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.


Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cortical Bone* / diagnostic imaging
  • Cortical Bone* / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menopause / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal* / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal* / metabolism
  • Software*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Twins, Dizygotic*
  • Twins, Monozygotic