In this exploratory study, the team analysed 19 end-stage CF and 13 control rib specimens resected from otherwise healthy lung donors. BMD, bone microarchitecture, static parameters of bone formation and resorption and microcrack density of rib specimens were quantified by imaging, histomorphometric and histological methods. Variables reflecting the mineralization of ribs were assessed by digitized microradiography. The degree of bone mineralization (g/cm3) and the heterogeneity index of the mineralization (g/cm3) were calculated for trabecular and cortical bone.
Compared to controls, CF ribs exhibited lower areal and trabecular volumetric BMD, decreased trabecular thickness and osteoid parameters, and increased microcrack density, that was particularly pronounced in specimens from patients with CF-related diabetes. Static parameters of bone resorption were similar in both groups. Degree of mineralization of total bone, but not heterogeneity index, was increased in CF specimens.
The combination of reduced bone mass, altered microarchitecture, imbalanced bone remodeling (maintained bone resorption but decreased formation), increased microdamage and a small increase of the degree of mineralization, may lead to decreased bone strength, which, when coupled with chronic coughing and chest physical therapy, may provide an explanation for the increased incidence of rib fractures previously reported in this population.