Rapid growth produces transient cortical weakness: A risk factor for metaphyseal fractures during puberty

Qingju Wang, Xiao Fang Wang, Sandra Iuliano-Burns, Ali Ghasem-Zadeh, Roger Zebaze, Ego Seeman

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84 Citations (Scopus)


Fractures of the distal radius in children have a similar incidence to that found in postmenopausal women but occur more commonly in boys than in girls. Fractures of the distal tibia are uncommon in children and show no sex specificity. About 90% of lengthening of the radius but only 30% of lengthening of the tibia during puberty occur at the distal growth plate. We speculated that more rapid modeling at the distal radial metaphysis results in a greater dissociation between growth and mineral accrual than observed at the distal tibia. We measured the macro- and microarchitecture of the distal radial and tibial metaphysis using high-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography in a cross-sectional study of 69 healthy boys and 60 healthy girls aged from 5 to 18 years. Bone diameters were larger but total volumetric bone mineral density (vBMD) was lower at the distal radius (not at the distal tibia) by 20% in boys and by 15% in girls at Tanner stage III than in children of the same sex at Tanner stage I (both p<.05). In boys at Tanner stage III, total vBMD was lower because the larger radial total cross-sectional area (CSA) had a thinner cortex with lower vBMD than in boys at Tanner stage I. In girls at Tanner stage III, the larger total radial CSA was not associated with a difference in cortical thickness or cortical vBMD relative to girls in Tanner stage I. Cortical thickness and density at both sites in both sexes after Tanner stage III were greater than in younger children. Trabecular bone volume fraction (BV/TV) was higher in boys than in girls at both sites and more so after puberty because trabeculae were thicker in more mature boys but not in girls. There was no sex- or age-related differences in trabecular number at either site. We infer that longitudinal growth outpaces mineral accrual in both sexes at the distal radius, where bone grows rapidly. The dissociation produces transitory low cortical thickness and vBMD in boys but not in girls. These structural features in part may account for the site and sex specificity of metaphyseal fractures during growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1521-1526
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Bone and Mineral Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Bone
  • HR-pQCT
  • Metaphysis
  • Puberty
  • Sex difference
  • Structure
  • Trabeculae

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