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When and where do patients with bone metastases actually break their femurs?

a CT-based finite element analysis

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Accurate estimations of the risk of fracture due to metastatic bone disease in the femur is essential in order to avoid both under-treatment and over-treatment of patients with an impending pathological fracture. The purpose of the current retrospective in vivo study was to use CT-based finite element analyses (CTFEA) to identify a clear quantitative differentiating factor between patients who are at imminent risk of fracturing their femur and those who are not, and to identify the exact location of maximal weakness where the fracture is most likely to occur.


Data were collected on 82 patients with femoral metastatic bone disease, 41 of whom did not undergo prophylactic fixation. A total of 15 had a pathological fracture within six months following the CT scan, and 26 were fracture-free during the five months following the scan. The Mirels score and strain fold ratio (SFR) based on CTFEA was computed for all patients. A SFR value of 1.48 was used as the threshold for a pathological fracture. The sensitivity, specificity, positive, and negative predicted values for Mirels score and SFR predictions were computed for nine patients who fractured and 24 who did not, as well as a comparison of areas under the receiver operating characteristic curves (AUC of the ROC curves).


The sensitivity of SFR was 100% compared with 88% for the Mirels score, and the specificity of SFR was 67% compared with 38% for the Mirels score. The AUC was 0.905 for SFR compared with 0.578 for the Mirels score (p = 0.008).


All the patients who sustained a pathological fracture of the femur had an SFR of > 1.48. CTFEA was far better at predicting the risk of fracture and its location accurately compared with the Mirels score. CTFEA is quick and automated and can be incorporated into the protocol of CT scanners.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2020;102-B(5):638–645.

Correspondence should be sent to A. Sternheim; email:

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