Bone is a structural and hierarchical composite that exhibits remarkable ability to sustain complex mechanical loading and resist fracture. Bone quality encompasses various attributes of bone matrix from the quality of its material components (type-I collagen, mineral and non-collagenous matrix proteins) and cancellous microarchitecture, to the nature and extent of bone microdamage. Microdamage, produced during loading, manifests in multiple forms across the scales of hierarchy in bone and functions to dissipate energy and avert fracture. Microdamage formation is a key determinant of bone quality, and through a range of biological and physical mechanisms, accumulates with age and disease. Accumulated microdamage in bone decreases bone strength and increases bone's propensity to fracture. Thus, a thorough assessment of microdamage, across the hierarchical levels of bone, is crucial to better understand bone quality and bone fracture. This review article details multiple imaging modalities that have been used to study and characterize microdamage; from bulk staining techniques originally developed by Harold Frost to assess linear microcracks, to atomic force microscopy, a modality that revealed mechanistic insights into the formation diffuse damage at the ultrastructural level in bone. New automated techniques using imaging modalities, such as microcomputed tomography are also presented for a comprehensive overview.
- Bone quality