The fragility of the human skeleton is an important risk factor for osteoporotic fractures. Today, (radiologically measured) bone density measurements (DXA) serve as a surrogate for bone fragility, not taking into account other important aspects like material strength or structure. On the other hand, ultrasound measurement techniques have been applied successfully in medical diagnosis as well as material testing. With our research we aim to exploit the full potential of ultrasound measurements for the assessment of bone properties to improve diagnosis, risk assessment, and monitoring of bone status.
The figures depict (from left to right): the device as used for in vivo measurements, an ultrasound attenuation image in comparison with a DXA image, a bone surface depiction using reflected ultrasound signals, the ultrasound field after penetration of the femur.
In a European collaboration between Germany, France and Switzerland we built and evaluated a scanner for in vivo QUS-measurements at the human proximal femur. First in vivo results yielded a power similar to DXA for the discrimination of women with and without hip fractures.
In collaboration with Danish researchers we started a multi-centre study, in which we will test in clinical environments if a screening for osteoporosis using DXA or QUS with following therapy is successful in terms of fracture prohibition and cost effectiveness.
Together with researchers in Paris and Berlin we work together in a French-German network to conduct joint research in common and new quantitative ultrasound modalities in combination with other state-of-the-art macro- and micromechanical tests in order to gain a better understanding on wave propagation in bone, the prediction of elastic and structural parameters from ultrasonic measurements and the ultrasound-based in vivo assessment of bone strength.