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Poult Sci. 2005 Jan;84(1):91-9.

Validation of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry in live White Leghorns.

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  • 1Department of Animal Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, USA.


Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) was evaluated for use as a noninvasive tool to monitor skeletal integrity in live laying hens. The objectives of the current study were 1) to validate the use of DEXA in evaluating bone integrity in live birds as compared with excised bones under a normal nutritional regimen as well as in hens fed varying levels of dietary Ca and 2) to correlate densitometric scans with other bone strength criteria and egg traits. Densitometric scans were conducted on the tibia and humerus of live hens at 10-wk intervals from 17 to 67 wk of age. After each scan, bones were excised from euthanized hens to measure breaking strength characteristics and bone ash (experiment 1). Similar measurements were collected at 38, 48, and 58 wk of age from hens fed hypercalcemic (5.4%), control (3.6%), and hypocalcemic (1.8%) diets from 32 to 58 wk of age (experiment 2). The bone mineral density (BMD) and bone mineral content (BMC) between live and excised bone scans were highly correlated (r = 0.85 and 0.92, respectively, P < 0.0001, experiment 1). Densitometric scans of live birds were positively correlated with bone breaking force and bone ash (r = 0.68 and 0.73, respectively, P < 0.001) with little to no correlation with shell traits. In experiment 2, the excised tibial scan had lower BMD and BMC than the live bird (P < 0.01), whereas no difference was detected in densitometric scans of the humerus. The live and excised BMD and BMC of the tibia (r = 0.87 and 0.82, respectively, P < 0.001) and humerus (r = 0.94 and 0.93, respectively, P < 0.001) were highly correlated. Due to the high correlations between live and excised bone scans and the significant correlations of live scans to more traditional invasive bone measurement tests such as bone breaking force and bone ash, we concluded that DEXA is a useful noninvasive tool for evaluating skeletal integrity in live birds.

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