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Calcif Tissue Int. 1991 Apr;48(4):240-4.

Ultrasound attenuation of the calcaneus: a sensitive and specific discriminator of osteopenia in postmenopausal women.

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  • 1Department of Orthopedics, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Worcester 01655.


Recent studies have evaluated techniques for estimating bone mass without radiation. The present study compares broadband ultrasound attenuation of the calcaneus and bone densities of the femoral neck and the lumbar spine in 17 normal women and 41 women with osteoporosis. Twenty of the osteoporotic women had spine (n = 16) or femoral neck (n = 4) fractures. There was a significant decrease in the broadband ultrasound attenuation (P less than 0.001) in women with osteoporosis compared with normal women. The osteoporotic women also showed a decrease in vertebral (P less than 0.0001) and femoral neck (P less than 0.0001) densities compared with normal women. At 63 dB/MHz, the sensitivity and specificity of broadband ultrasound attenuation for decreased bone mineral density with or without fractures were 76%. All women with fractures had a broadband ultrasound attenuation less than 72 dB/MHz. This corresponded to a specificity of 41%. To determine whether broadband ultrasound attenuation correlated with trabecular bone volume, samples of cadaver calcaneus were analyzed. The histologic determination showed a significant correlation between broadband ultrasound attenuation and trabecular bone volume (r = 0.992, P = 0.008). These results suggest broadband ultrasound attenuation of the calcaneus reflects bone mass and can be used as a safe and sensitive indicator for decreased axial bone density.

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