Longitudinal in vivo micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) is of interest to non-invasively capture the healing process of individual animals in preclinical fracture healing studies. However, it is not known whether longitudinal imaging itself has an impact on callus formation and remodeling. In this study, a scan group received weekly micro-CT measurements (week 0–6), whereas controls were only scanned post-operatively and at week 5 and 6. Registration of consecutive scans using a branching scheme (bridged vs. unbridged defect) combined with a two-threshold approach enabled assessment of localized bone turnover and mineralization kinetics relevant for monitoring callus remodeling. Weekly micro-CT application did not significantly change any of the assessed callus parameters in the defect and periosteal volumes. This was supported by histomorphometry showing only small amounts of cartilage residuals in both groups, indicating progression towards the end of the healing period. Also, immunohistochemical staining of Sclerostin, previously associated with mediating adverse radiation effects on bone, did not reveal differences between groups. The established longitudinal in vivo micro-CT-based approach allows monitoring of healing phases in mouse femur defect models without significant effects of anesthesia, handling and radiation on callus properties. Therefore, this study supports application of longitudinal in vivo micro-CT for healing-phase-specific monitoring of fracture repair in mice.
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