Bone densitometry: applications and limitations.
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Osteoporosis is clinically diagnosed in its advanced stages, usually following a fracture. Accurate, precise, and noninvasive skeletal assessment is now possible for early detection of osteoporosis at a preclinical stage. Currently, the gold standard in bone mass measurement and fracture prediction is dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) of the hip and spine. Exponential increases in fracture risk have been observed with small decreases in bone mineral density. Bone mineral density (BMD) should be considered in conjunction with independent clinical risk factors for fracture, including: low body weight, history of postmenopausal fracture, family history of fracture, and poor neuromuscular function. The World Health Organization (WHO) diagnostic criteria for osteoporosis and osteopenia are appropriate for postmenopausal Caucasian women and are applicable to DEXA assessments at the hip, spine, or forearm. This review explores the relationship between BMD and fracture risk, the principles of bone densitometry interpretation, and the applications as well as the limitations of DEXA technology, and presents cases illustrating common errors seen in the interpretation of DEXA studies.
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