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Osteoporos Int. 2000;11(1):52-8.

A comparison of the longitudinal changes in quantitative ultrasound with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry: the four-year effects of hormone replacement therapy.

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  • 1Ageing and Disability Research Unit, University Hospital, Nottingham, UK.


Quantitative ultrasound (QUS) has been proposed as a tool which can measure both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of bone tissue and can predict the future risk of osteoporotic fractures. However, the usefulness of QUS in long-term monitoring has yet to be defined. We studied a group of early postmenopausal women over a 4-year period. Thirty subjects were allocated to hormone replacement therapy and 30 selected as controls matched for age, years past the menopause (YPM) and bone mineral density (BMD) at the anteroposterior spine (AP spine). The mean age of the subjects was 52.4 years (SD 3.9 years), mean YPM 4.0 years (SD 3.2) and all subjects had a BMD T-score above -2.5 SD (number of standard units related to the young normal mean population). BMD was measured at baseline and annually by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) at the AP spine and total hip, and QUS carried out at the calcaneus, measuring broadband ultrasound attenuation (BUA), speed of sound (SOS) and Stiffness. Mean percentage changes from baseline were assessed at 2 and 4 years. The overall treatment effect (defined as the difference in percentage change between the two groups) was: AP spine BMD, 11.4%; total hip BMD, 7.4%; BUA, 6.4%; SOS, 1.1%; and Stiffness, 10.4% (p<0.01). To compare the long-term precision of the two techniques we calculated the Standardized Precision, which for QUS was approximately 2-3 times that of DXA, for a given rate of change. The ability of each site to monitor response to treatment was assessed by calculating the Treatment Response Index (Treatment Effect/Standardized Precision), which was: AP spine BMD, 10.4; total hip BMD, 3.9; BUA, 3.1; SOS, 0.3; and Stiffness, 4.2. This was then normalized for AP spine BMD (to compare the role of QUS against the current standard, AP Spine BMD), which was: total hip BMD, 0.38; BUA, 0.30; Stiffness, 0.40 (p<0.01); and SOS, 0.03 (NS). In summary, QUS parameters in the early menopause showed a similar rate of decline as AP spine BMD and total hip BMD measured by DXA. Hormone replacement therapy results in bone gain at the AP spine and total hip, and prevents loss in BUA and SOS measured by QUS at the calcaneus. QUS has a potential role in long-term monitoring, although presently the time period to follow individual subjects remains 2-3 times that for DXA, for a given rate of change. Anteroposterior spine remains the current optimal DXA monitoring site due to its greater rate of change and better long-term precision.

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