Age-related trends in vertebral dimensions

Juho Antti Junno, Markus Paananen, Jaro Karppinen, Jaakko Niinimäki, Markku Niskanen, Heli Maijanen, Tiina Väre, Marjo Riitta Järvelin, Miika T. Nieminen, Juha Tuukkanen, Christopher Ruff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Several studies have demonstrated age-related changes in vertebral dimensions. Vertebral size has been reported to increase among elderly adults, with periosteal apposition resulting in increased cross-sectional area (CSA) of the vertebral corpus combined with reduction in bone mineral density. These changes in CSA are observed to be sex-specific, as the pronounced increase of vertebral CSA is found only in elderly males. However, the reduction in bone mineral density in old age is apparent within both sexes. It is thus hypothesized that higher fracture risk in elderly women is a result of their incapacity to increase vertebral size and thus adapt to bone mineral reduction. In this study, our aim was to explore whether the onset of these changes could be ascribed to specific age intervals and whether the proposed differences between the sexes are as great as previously suggested. To conduct this study we utilized two large early 20th century skeletal collections known as Terry and Bass (n=181). We also utilized data from two lumbar spine magnetic resonance imaging samples as a modern-day reference (n=497). Age, sex and ethnicity of all individuals were known. Vertebral CSA was determined by measuring three width and length dimensions from the corpus of the fourth lumbar vertebra (L4). Our results indicate only a moderate association between age and vertebral CSA. This association was observed to be relatively similar in both sexes, and we thus conclude that there is no clear sex-specific compensatory mechanism for age-related bone loss in vertebral size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)434-439
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • Age-related changes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Vertebral cross-sectional area
  • Vertebral fractures
  • Vertebral size

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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