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Poult Sci. 2004 Feb;83(2):222-9.

Assessing bone mineral density in vivo: quantitative computed tomography.

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  • 1Department of Agricultural, Food, and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada T6G 2P5.


Egg-laying hens require substantial amounts of Ca to support eggshell formation. Over time, structural bone is catabolized to provide some of the Ca required; the structural bone is not replaced. As the hen ages, this can eventually lead to osteoporosis. Quantitative Computed Tomography (QCT) is a nondestructive technique used to measure bone mineral density (BMD). QCT is used diagnostically in humans to assess osteoporosis; BMD determined by QCT is correlated with other, more invasive methods of bone mineral determinations, such as ashing. An x-ray is sent through a bone at multiple angles within a plane to generate a 2-dimensional image and a 3-dimensional calculation of volume and BMD. The technique allows resolution of total, trabecular, and cortical BMD and cross-sectional areas. The separation of bone types allows very precise measurements of the bone compartments most important in Ca supply for eggshell formation and bone strength. QCT has been adapted in our laboratory to measure BMD in vivo and ex vivo in poultry; values obtained for poultry bones are moderately correlated with destructive means of assessing bone quality such as breaking strength, ashing, and chemical bone mineral determinations. Thus, changes in BMD of individual birds can be measured over time; BMD at specific time points can be correlated with production parameters and eggshell quality traits. QCT is an effective technique to measure BMD in laying hens, which allows resolution of total BMD as well as cortical and trabecular BMD.

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