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Bone cortical thickness and porosity assessment using ultrasound guided waves: An ex vivo validation study

  • Minonzio, Jean Gabriel
  • Bochud, N.
  • Vallet, Q.
  • Bala, Y.
Several studies showed the ability of the cortex of long bones such as the radius and tibia to guide mechanical waves. Such experimental evidence has given rise to the emergence of a category of quantitative ultrasound techniques, referred to as the axial transmission, specifically developed to measure the propagation of ultrasound guided waves in the cortical shell along the axis of long bones. An ultrasound axial transmission technique, with an automated approach to quantify cortical thickness and porosity is described. The guided modes propagating in the cortex are recorded with a 1-MHz custom made linear transducer array. Measurement of the dispersion curves is achieved using a two-dimensional spatio-temporal Fourier transform combined with singular value decomposition. Automatic parameters identification is obtained through the solution of an inverse problem in which the dispersion curves are predicted with a two-dimensional transverse isotropic free plate model. Thirty-one radii and fifteen tibiae harvested from human cadavers underwent axial transmission measurements. Estimates of cortical thickness and porosity were obtained on 40 samples out of 46. The reproducibility, given by the root mean square error of the standard deviation of estimates, was 0.11 mm for thickness and 1.9% for porosity. To assess accuracy, site-matched micro-computed tomography images of the bone specimens imaged at 9 μm voxel size served as the gold standard. Agreement between micro-computed tomography and axial transmission for quantification of thickness and porosity at the radius and tibia ranged from R2=0.63 for porosity (root mean square error RMSE=1.8%) to 0.89 for thickness (RMSE=0.3 mm). Despite an overall good agreement for porosity, the method performs less well for porosities lower than 10%. The heterogeneity and general complexity of cortical bone structure, which are not fully accounted for by our model, are suspected to weaken the model approximation. This study presents the first validation study for assessing cortical thickness and porosity using the axial transmission technique. The automatic signal processing minimizes operator-dependent errors for parameters determination. Recovering the waveguide characteristics, that is to say cortical thickness and porosity, could provide reliable information about skeletal status and future fracture risk.
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