An improved labelling technique for monitoring microcrack growth in compact bone.

Fatigue-induced damage plays an important role in bone remodelling and in the formation of stress and fragility fractures. Recently, a technique has been developed (Lee, T.C. et al., Sequential labelling of microdamage in bone using chelating agents. Journal of Orthopedic Research, 18 (2000) 322-325) which allows microcrack growth in trabecular bone to be monitored by the application of a series of chelating fluorochromes, however, some limitations were identified with the process. The aims of this study were to refine the method of detection using these agents in order to determine the optimal sequence of application and the optimal concentrations which allowed all the agents to fluoresce equally brightly using UV epifluorescence. A chemical analysis process, ion chromatography, followed by validation tests on bone samples showed that the optimal sequence of application and concentration of each agent was alizarin complexone (0.0005 M) followed by xylenol orange (0.0005 M), calcein (0.0005 M) and calcein blue (0.0001 M). A fifth agent, oxytetracycline was excluded from the study after recurring problems were found with its ability to chelate exposed calcium when applied in sequence with the other agents. This work has developed a sequential labelling technique, which allows for microcrack propagation during fatigue testing of bone specimens to be monitored without the problem of chelating agent substitution occurring.