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J Clin Densitom. 2005 Fall;8(3):362-8.

Assessment of vertebral fracture using densitometric morphometry.

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  • 1INSERM U403, Hôpital Edouard Herriot, Lyon cedex, France, and Prevention Sciences Group, University of California at San Francisco, USA.


Diagnosis of vertebral fracture is critical for management of osteoporosis, as existence of such deformities substantially increases the risk of subsequent fracture. Thus, accurate and precise techniques allowing detection of such deformities are essential to clinicians. So far, this detection has been performed by spinal lateral X-rays. More advanced techniques have recently been developed, based on dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). This review describes these different techniques and discusses the effectiveness of the DXA technique to assess vertebral deformities compared to X-ray. The use of DXA detection of vertebral fracture for clinical practice and clinical trials is discussed. Specifically, vertebral morphometry using DXA provides an excellent specificity, with moderate sensitivity. The major limitation of the DXA vertebral assessment is the poor quality of images of thoracic vertebrae. The clinical utility of vertebral morphometry using densitometry may help screening patients with vertebral fracture, but technological improvements are necessary to improve image quality.

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