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J Clin Densitom. 2004 Fall;7(3):296-301.

Do appendicular bone measurements reflect changes in the axial skeleton?: the use of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and ultrasound measurements during lactation.

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MRC Human Nutrition Research, Elsie Widdowson Laboratory, Cambridge, CB1 9NL, UK.


The ability of different bone measurement techniques to monitor changes in bone mineral was studied. Lactation was used as a model because large, rapid, but reversible decreases in bone mineral content (BMC) occur in breast-feeding women. Spine and forearm dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and calcaneal quantitative ultrasound (QUS) measurements were made during 30 lactations. During the first 3 mo of lactation, decreases in the BMC, adjusted for area, were significant at the spine (-2.8%; standard error [SE] = 0.6; p < 0.001) but not the wrist (p = 0.40). Nonsignificant increases in normalized broadband ultrasound attenuation (nBUA) and velocity of sound (VOS) were observed at the calcaneus using QUS. From peak lactation to postlactation, the BMC increases at the spine were significant (4.1%; SE = 0.6; p < 0.001) but not those at the wrist (p = 0.17). Nonsignificant decreases were observed using QUS. Eleven breast-feeding women had longitudinal calcaneal and spine DXA measurements from peak lactation to postlactation. Significant BMC increases were observed at both sites (calcaneus: 2.4%, SE = 0.7, p < 0.01; spine: 3.3%, SE = 1.3, p < 0.03). The similarity of DXA calcaneal changes to spine changes indicates that DXA calcaneal measurements could be a useful alternative tool when it is difficult to monitor BMC at axial sites.

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