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J Bone Miner Res. 1992 Oct;7(10):1221-5.

Lateral spine densitometry is a more sensitive indicator of glucocorticoid-induced bone loss.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Auckland, New Zealand.


Osteoporosis is a common complication of glucocorticoid therapy. Bone density measurement is now commonly used in assessing which steroid-treated patients require specific interventions to reduce fracture risk. The recently developed techniques for the measurement of bone mineral density (BMD) of the vertebral body alone, by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) in the lateral projection, may be particularly useful in this context since steroid-induced bone loss is most marked in trabecular-rich regions like the vertebral body. This possibility has been assessed in the present study by the measurement of BMD in the lateral and anterioposterior (AP) projections in 28 women receiving chronic glucocorticoid treatment. The two BMD measurements were significantly related (r = 0.62, p < 0.001). When expressed in relation to age-appropriate normal values, lateral BMDs were lower than AP BMDs both in percentage terms (70.8 +/- 4.4 versus 90.3 +/- 2.6%, p < 0.001) and in terms of Z scores (-1.42 +/- 0.22 versus -0.91 +/- 0.24, p = 0.027). AP BMD Z scores classified 12 patients as osteopenic, whereas a further 7 were so categorized by lateral BMD Z score. It is concluded that lateral DXA scanning is a more sensitive indicator of glucocorticoid-induced osteopenia than conventional BMD measurement in the AP projection.

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