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J Clin Densitom. 2006 Jul-Sep;9(3):281-6. Epub 2006 May 19.

Monitoring of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry measurement in clinical practice.

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Rheumatology and Physical Rehabilitation Department, Military Hospital Mohammed V, Rabat, Morocco.


Bone densitometry has become the "gold standard" in osteoporosis diagnosis and treatment evaluation. It has also become more and more common to perform a second dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) measurement to monitor bone mineral density (BMD) status or the effect of therapeutic intervention. When a second measurement is performed on a patient, the clinician needs to distinguish between a true change in BMD and a random fluctuation related to variability in the measurement procedure. The reproducibility of DXA measurements is claimed to be good. Such variability is due to multiple causes, such as device errors, technician variability, patients' movements, and variation due to other unpredictable sources. The precision error is usually expressed as the coefficient of variation (CV). However, several other statistics to express reproducibility exist such as the smallest detectable difference (SDD) or the least significant change (LSC). The SDD represents a cut-off that can be measured in an individual and is usually considered more useful than the CV in clinical practice. Indeed, the use of the SDD is preferable to the use of the CV and LSC because of its independence from BMD level and its expression in absolute units (g/cm2). At each measurement center, the SDD must be calculated from in vivo reproducibility data. The choice of the optimum time and site for performing follow-up scans depends on the ratio of the expected BMD treatment effect to the precision of the measurements.

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