EEE Trans Med Imaging. 2019 Oct 23. doi: 10.1109/TMI.2019.2945219. [Epub ahead of print]
Osteoporosis is an age-associated disease characterised by low bone mineral density (BMD) and microarchitectural deterioration leading to enhanced fracture risk. Conventional dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) analysis has facilitated our understanding of BMD reduction in specific regions of interest (ROIs) within the femur, but cannot resolve spatial BMD patterns nor reflect age-related changes in bone microarchitecture due to its inherent averaging of pixel BMD values into large ROIs. To address these limitations and develop a comprehensive model of involutional bone loss, this paper presents a fully automatic pipeline to build a spatio-temporal atlas of ageing bone in the proximal femur. A new technique, termed DXA region free analysis (DXA RFA), is proposed to eliminate morphological variation between DXA scans by warping each image into a reference template. To construct the atlas, we use unprocessed DXA data from Caucasian women aged 20-97 years participating in three cohort studies in Western Europe (n>13,000). A novel calibration procedure, termed quantile matching regression, is proposed to integrate data from different DXA manufacturers. Pixel-wise BMD evolution with ageing was modelled using smooth quantile curves. This technique enables characterisation of spatially-complex BMD change patterns with ageing, visualised using heat-maps. Furthermore, quantile curves plotted at different pixel coordinates showed consistently different rates of bone loss at different regions within the femoral neck. Given the close relationship between spatio-temporal bone loss and osteoporotic fracture, improved understanding of the bone ageing process could lead to enhanced prognostic, preventive and therapeutic strategies for the disease.