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Comparison of MRI and DXA to measure muscle size and age-related atrophy in thigh muscles.

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School of Healthcare Science, Manchester Metropolitan University, John Dalton Building, Oxford Road, Manchester, United Kingdom.



Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) were used to examine the thigh lean mass in young and old men and women.


A whole-body DXA scan was used to estimate thigh lean mass in young (20 men; 22.4±3.1y; 18 women; 22.1±2.0y) and older adults (25 men; 72.3±4.9y; 28 women; 72.0±4.5y). Thigh lean mass determined with a thigh scan on the DXA or full thigh MRI scans were compared.


Although the thigh lean mass quantified by DXA and MRI in young and older participants were correlated (R(2)=0.88; p<0.001) the magnitude of the differences in thigh lean mass between young and old was smaller with DXA than MRI (old vs. young men 79.5±13.1% and 73.4±11.2%; old vs. young women 88.6±11.8% and 79.4±12.3%, respectively). Detailed analysis of MRI revealed 30% smaller quadriceps muscles in the older than young individuals, while the other thigh muscles were only 18% smaller.


DXA underestimates the age-related loss of thigh muscle mass in comparison to MRI. The quadriceps muscles were more susceptible to age-related atrophy compared with other thigh muscles.

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