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Osteoporos Int. 2006;17(8):1189-95. Epub 2006 Jun 7.

Effectiveness of instant vertebral assessment to detect prevalent vertebral fracture.

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  • 1Department of Rheumatology and Bone Disease and INSERM Unit 403, H├┤pital E Herriot, 5 Place d'Arsonval, 69437, Lyon, Cedex 03, France.



Vertebral fracture is currently underdiagnosed, despite its common severity and its value to predict further osteoporotic fracture. Morphometry using dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) [vertebral fracture assessment (VFA)] is a new technique that may facilitate detection of many vertebral fractures, as images are obtained at the same time as bone mineral density (BMD) measurement, and would also allow avoiding spine radiographs.


We conducted a cross-sectional study to assess the diagnostic value of Instant Vertebral Assessment (IVA), which is a morphometry scan using the Hologic Delphi densitometer, to detect prevalent vertebral fracture in postmenopausal women. Interobserver precision was assessed, then IVA scans were compared with lateral spine radiographs, considered the gold standard, to test diagnostic agreement between the two techniques. Sensitivity, specificity and predictive values were calculated, as well as the likelihood ratio of the positive test, using sensitivity and specificity at each vertebral level.


Among 85 patients of whom 50% had at least one vertebral fracture identified with radiographs, we found that interobserver precision was moderate, with frequent difficulties in discerning upper thoracic vertebrae. On a per-vertebra basis, sensitivity was around 70% from L4 to T11 and lower above T11 whereas specificity was above 90% for all vertebrae, and the negative predictive value remained above 80% from L4 to T7 and decreased above T7. On a per-patient basis, sensitivity was 0.69, specificity 0.74, positive predictive value equalled 0.72 and negative predictive value 0.71. When only grades 2 and 3 fractures were considered, results were comparable, with slightly improved specificity. Then, with the likelihood ratios calculated in our sample, we obtained posttest probabilities using the prevalence of vertebral fracture at lumbar and thoracic levels in a large sample of postmenopausal women with osteopenia and osteoporosis with and without vertebral fracture [baseline data in women of the Multiple Outcomes on Raloxifene Evaluation (MORE) trial]. At levels where fractures were most common, likelihood ratios of the positive test were good or excellent, associated with sizeable posttest probabilities.


IVA allowed diagnosis of vertebral fracture at levels where vertebral fracture were most common, i.e., the lumbar and mid and lower thoracic levels, but its value was weaker at the upper thoracic levels.

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