Most histological evaluations of critical-sized bone defects are limited to the analysis of a few regions of interest at a time. Manual and semiautomated histomorphometric approaches often have intra- and interobserver subjectivity, as well as variability in image analysis methods. Moreover, the production of large image data sets makes histological assessment and histomorphometric analysis labor intensive and time consuming. Herein, we tested and compared two image segmentation methods: thresholding (automated) and region-based (manual) modes, for quantifying complete image sets across entire critical-sized bone defects, using the widely used Osteomeasure system and the freely downloadable Aperio Image Scope software. A comparison of bone histomorphometric data showed strong agreement between the automated segmentation mode of the Osteomeasure software with the manual segmentation mode of Aperio Image Scope analysis (bone formation R2 = 0.9615 and fibrous tissue formation R2 = 0.8734). These results indicate that Aperio is capable of handling large histological images, with excellent speed performance in producing highly consistent histomorphometric evaluations compared with the Osteomeasure image analysis system. The statistical evaluation of these two major bone parameters demonstrated that Aperio Image Scope is as capable as Osteomeasure. This study developed a protocol to improve the quality of results and reduce analysis time, while also promoting the standardization of image analysis protocols for the histomorphometric analysis of critical-sized bone defect samples. Impact Statement Despite bone tissue engineering innovations increasing over the last decade, histomorphometric analysis of large bone defects used to study such approaches continues to pose a challenge for pathological assessment. This is due to the resulting large image data set, and the lack of a gold standard image analysis protocol to quantify histological outcomes. Herein, we present a standardized protocol for the image analysis of critical-sized bone defect samples stained with Goldner's Trichrome using the Osteomeasure and Aperio Image Scope image analysis systems. The results were critically examined to determine their reproducibility and accuracy for analyzing large bone defects.
Keywords: aperio; critical-sized bone defect; histological analysis; image analysis; osteomeasure.