High Resolution Peripheral Quantitative Computed Tomography

The High Resolution Peripheral Quantitative Computed Tomography (HR-pQCT) Core Facility offers measurements of the microscopic internal structure of cortical and trabecular bone in the distal radius and tibia. Additionally, the HR-pQCT Core Facility offers Finite Element Analysis to estimate key biomechanical properties of the bone including failure load and stiffness. 

By scanning the distal radius and tibia, the HR-pQCT Core can measure a variety of important parameters reflecting the integrity of cortical and trabecular bone. This information cannot be determined using standard clinical imaging techniques such as dual-energy X-Ray absorptiometry (DXA). A scanning appointment is a 30 minute addition to a clinical research visit and involves less radiation exposure than traditional bone densitometry. With applications for both cross-sectional and longitudinal research, investigators have employed our facilities and expertise to study a variety of bone-related diseases with participants ranging in age from children to the elderly. 

The goal of the HR-pQCT Core is to provide facilities and personnel on a per study basis, allowing investigators access to important information about bone structure and function without requiring special expertise and equipment.


            Massachusetts General Hospital


Personnel/Contact Information:

Director: Bouxsein, Mary, Ph.D.
Role: Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery
Phone: 617-726-3967
Email: mbouxsei@bidmc.harvard.edu

Member: Fitzgerald, Deborah
Role: Managing Coordinator
Phone: 617-726-6723
Email: dafitzgerald@partners.org

Facilities and Equipment:


The HR-pQCT Core Facility is housed within the MGH Bone Density Center at 10 Emerson Place, Suite 1, Boston, MA  02114.


Measurements are performed on an Xtreme CT scanner (SCANCO Medical AG, Basserdorf, Switzerland).  The scanner was purchased using funds provided by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator, Joel S. Finkelstein, M.D.)


  • Standard Analysis (SA):  SA includes measurements of densities and micro-architectural parameters for cortical and trabecular bone compartments of the distal radius and tibia.
  • Extended Cortical Analysis (ECA):  ECA provides more detailed measures of cortical bone, including quantification of its porosity and thickness.
  • Finite Element Analysis (FEA):  FEA uses mathematical modeling to assess the effects of a simulated mechanical load on bone to estimate its stiffness, failure load, and other biomechanical properties.
  • Radius DXA Simulation: The radius DXA simulation software uses volumetric bone mineral density to calculate areal bone mineral density as would be found at the ultradistal site in a DXA forearm scan -- sparing the cost of a DXA scan at that site and additional radiation exposure for the subject.
  • Cumulative reports including all measurements for a specific research protocol are provided every 6 months.  Additional reports can be requested when needed to respond to deadlines for grant submissions or publications.
  • Each scan is initially analyzed by a Core Facility technician and then reviewed by a senior member of the Core Facility staff.
  • Normative data (mean values and standard deviations) for SA, ECA, and FEA as well as for DXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) for healthy 20 to 30 year old men and women are available to provide reference values and for comparisons with values from specific protocol cohorts. Short-term reproducibility data are also available.
  • 3D Imaging:  The HR-pQCT Core Facility can generate high-quality black-and-white images illustrating static bone microscopic structure and color images depicting dynamic properties of the skeletal response to stimulated loading.

Getting Started:

To begin organizing a cohort for HR-pQCT studies or to inquire further, please contact the Core Director, Dr. Mary Bouxsein (mbouxsei@bidmc.harvard.edu, 617-726-3967).