Role of cortical bone in bone fragility

Yohann Bala, Roger Zebaze, Ego Seeman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleOtherpeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose of review Trabecular bone loss and vertebral fractures are historical hallmarks of osteoporosis. During the past 70 years, this view has dominated research aiming to understand the structural basis of bone fragility. We suggest this notion needs to be revised to recognize and include the role of cortical bone deterioration as an important determinant of bone strength throughout life. Recent findings About 80% of the fragility fractures involve the appendicular skeleton, at regions comprising large amounts of cortical bone. Up to 70% of the age-related bone loss at these locations is the result of intracortical remodeling that cavitates cortical bone producing porosity. It is now possible to accurately quantify cortical porosity in vivo and use this information to understand the pathogenesis of bone fragility throughout life, assist in identifying patients at risk for fracture, and use this as a potential marker to monitor the effects of treatment on bone structure and strength. Summary Cortical bone has an important role in determining bone strength. The loss of strength is the result of intracortical and endocortical remodeling imbalance that produces cortical porosity and thinning. Studies are needed to determine whether porosity is an independent predictor of fracture risk and whether a reduction in porosity serves as a surrogate of antifracture efficacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)406-413
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Opinion in Rheumatology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Bone microstructure
  • Bone strength
  • Cortical porosity
  • Noninvasive imaging

Cite this