Introduction: The three-dimensional (3D) microstructure of the cortical and trabecular bone of the proximal ulna has not yet been described by means of high-resolution 3D imaging. An improved characterization can provide a better understanding of their relative contribution to resist impact load. The aim of this study is to describe the proximal ulna bone microstructure using micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) and relate it to gross morphology and function.
Materials and methods: Five dry cadaveric human ulnae were scanned by micro-CT (17 μm/voxel, isotropic). Both qualitative and quantitative assessments were performed on sagittal image stacks. The cortical thickness of the trochlear notch and the trabecular bone microstructure were measured in the olecranon, bare area and coronoid.
Results: Groups of trabecular struts starting in the bare area, spanning towards the anterior and posterior side of the proximal ulna, were observed; within the coronoid, the trabeculae were orthogonal to the joint surface. Consistently among the ulnae, the coronoid showed the highest cortical thickness (1.66 ± 0.59 mm, p = 0.04) and the olecranon the lowest (0.33 ± 0.06 mm, p = 0.04). The bare area exhibited the highest bone volume fraction (BV/TV = 43.7 ± 22.4%), trabecular thickness (Tb.Th = 0.40 ± 0.09 mm) and lowest structure model index (SMI = – 0.28 ± 2.20, indicating plate-like structure), compared to the other regions (p = 0.04).
Conclusions: Our microstructural results suggest that the bare area is the region where most of the loading of the proximal ulna is concentrated, whereas the coronoid, together with its anteromedial facet, is the most important bony stabilizer of the elbow joint. Studying the proximal ulna bone microstructure helps understanding its possible everyday mechanical loading conditions and potential fractures. Level of evidence: N.A.
- Coronoid process
- Proximal ulna