Assessment of the effect of strontium, lead, and aluminum in bone on dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry and quantitative ultrasound measurements: A phantom study
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PURPOSE: Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is the gold standard technique to measure areal bone mineral density (aBMD) for the diagnosis of osteoporosis. Because DXA relies on the attenuation of photon to estimate aBMD, deposition of bone-seeking metallic elements such as strontium, lead, and aluminum that differ in atomic numbers from calcium can cause inaccurate estimation of aBMD. Quantitative ultrasound (QUS) is another technique available to assess bone health by measuring broadband ultrasound attenuation (BUA), speed of sound (SOS), and an empirically derived quantity called stiffness index (SI). Because the acoustic properties are not prone to significant change due to changes in microscopic atomic composition of bone, it is hypothesized that QUS is unaffected by the presence of bone-seeking elements in the bone. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of strontium, lead, and aluminum on DXA-derived aBMD and QUS parameters using bone-mimicking phantoms compatible with both techniques. METHODS: Bone-mimicking phantoms were produced by homogeneously mixing finely powdered hydroxyapatite compounds that contain varying concentrations of strontium, lead, or aluminum with porcine gelatin solution. Seven strontium-substituted phantoms were produced with varying molar ratio of Sr/(Sr + Ca) ranging from 0% to 2%. Four lead-doped phantoms and four aluminum-doped phantoms were constructed with the respective analyte concentrations ranging from 50 to 200 ppm. An additional 0 ppm phantom was produced to be used as a baseline for the lead and aluminum phantom measurements. All phantoms had uniform volumetric bone mineral density (vBMD) of 200 mg/cm3 , and were assessed using a Hologic Horizon® DXA device and a Hologic Sahara® QUS device. Furthermore, theoretical aBMD bias for mol/mol% substitution of calcium with the three bone-seeking elements was calculated. RESULTS: Strong positive linear relationship was found between aBMD measured by DXA and strontium concentration (P < 0.001, r = 0.995). From the measurement of lead and aluminum phantoms using DXA, no statistically significant relationship was observed between aBMD and the analyte concentrations. For the QUS system, with an exception of BUA and lead concentration that exhibited statistically significant relationship (P < 0.038, r = 0.899), no statistically significant change was observed in all QUS parameters with respect to the clinically relevant concentration of all three elements. The calculated theoretical aBMD bias induced by 1 mol/mol% substitution of calcium with strontium, lead, and aluminum were 10.8%, 4.6%, and -0.7%, respectively. CONCLUSION: aBMD measured by DXA was prone to overestimation in the presence of strontium, but acoustic parameters measured by QUS are independent of strontium concentration. The deviation in aBMD induced by the clinically relevant concentrations of lead and aluminum under 200 ppm could not be detected using the Hologic Horizon® DXA device. Furthermore, the SI measured by the QUS system was not affected by lead or aluminum concentrations used in this study.