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J Bone Miner Res. 2000 Mar;15(3):564-74.

Morphometric X-ray absorptiometry and morphometric radiography of the spine: a comparison of prevalent vertebral deformity identification.

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Osteoporosis Screening and Research Unit, Guy's Hospital, London, UK.


Prevalent vertebral deformities are associated with a substantially increased risk of subsequent vertebral and nonvertebral fractures. Knowledge of vertebral fracture status is an important component in the prediction of further fractures in patients with osteoporosis. This study reports a comparison of the quantitative identification of vertebral deformities on morphometric X-ray absorptiometry (MXA) scans and conventional radiographs (MRX) in 161 postmenopausal women (mean age +/- SD, 64 +/- 7.1 years) recruited from patients referred by their family doctor for bone density measurement (n = 119) and osteoporotic subjects with known vertebral deformities attending an osteoporosis clinic (n = 42). Each subject had MXA scans and MRXs of the thoracolumbar spine, to image the vertebrae from T4-L4, at a single visit. The scans and radiographs were analyzed by two trained observers using six points to quantify the shape of each vertebral body. From these points, three vertebral heights were measured: anterior, middle, and posterior. Vertebral deformities were identified using the algorithms proposed by Eastell and by McCloskey. Generally good to excellent agreement (per vertebra, kappa = 0.87-0.93; per subject, kappa = 0.81-0.91) was observed between the two algorithms used for quantitative vertebral deformity identification using MXA or MRX. More moderate agreement (per vertebra, kappa = 0.70-0.79; per subject, kappa = 0.67-0.75) was seen when comparing the same algorithm between MXA and MRX. Agreement between MXA and MRX for the McCloskey algorithm was better than for the Eastell algorithm, largely because of the lower number of false positives produced by the McCloskey methodology. Deformity identification by MXA was limited because of poor image quality, primarily in the upper thoracic spine. One in six MRX deformities were missed by MXA as they occurred in vertebrae not visualized sufficiently for analysis on the MXA scans. Deformity identification was poorer in the upper thoracic spine in analyzable vertebrae with a sensitivity of 50.0% for MXA in terms of MRX using the Eastell algorithm for the vertebral levels T4-T7, compared with 80.6% for L1-L4A. MXA proved to be more effective at identifying moderate to severe MRX deformities producing a sensitivity of 22.0% for MXA in terms of identifying MRX grade 1 deformities using the Eastell algorithm, compared with 81.6% for grade 2 deformities. Although MXA image quality is inferior to that of conventional radiographs, MXA has distinct advantages such as a substantially reduced effective dose to the patient and acquisition of a single image of the spine. MXA is a potentially useful, relatively fast, low-radiation technique to identify prevalent vertebral deformities, particularly moderate to severe deformities in the middle/lower thoracic and lumbar spine, in conjunction with morphometric radiography in some patients.

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