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Radiology. 2019 May;291(2):360-367. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2019181648. Epub 2019 Mar 26.

Opportunistic Osteoporosis Screening at Routine Abdominal and Thoracic CT: Normative L1 Trabecular Attenuation Values in More than 20 000 Adults.

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From the Department of Radiology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, E3/311 Clinical Science Center, 600 Highland Ave, Madison, WI 53792-3252 (S.J., P.M.G., T.J.Z., S.J.L., P.J.P.); and Department of Diagnostic Radiology, National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, Bethesda, Md (R.M.S.).


Background Abdominal and thoracic CT provide a valuable opportunity for osteoporosis screening regardless of the clinical indication for imaging. Purpose To establish reference normative ranges for first lumbar vertebra (L1) trabecular attenuation values across all adult ages to measure bone mineral density (BMD) at routine CT. Materials and Methods Reference data were constructed from 20 374 abdominal and/or thoracic CT examinations performed at 120 kV. Data were derived from adults (mean age, 60 years ± 12 [standard deviation]; 56.1% [11 428 of 20 374] women). CT examinations were performed with (n = 4263) or without (n = 16 111) intravenous contrast agent administration for a variety of unrelated clinical indications between 2000 and 2018. L1 Hounsfield unit measurement was obtained either with a customized automated tool (n = 11 270) or manually by individual readers (n = 9104). The effects of patient age, sex, contrast agent, and manual region-of-interest versus fully automated L1 Hounsfield unit measurement were assessed using multivariable logistic regression analysis. Results Mean L1 attenuation decreased linearly with age at a rate of 2.5 HU per year, averaging 226 HU ± 44 for patients younger than 30 years and 89 HU ± 38 for patients 90 years or older. Women had a higher mean L1 attenuation compared with men (P < .008) until menopause, after which both groups had similar values. Administration of intravenous contrast agent resulted in negligible differences in mean L1 attenuation values except in patients younger than 40 years. The fully automated method resulted in measurements that were average 21 HU higher compared with manual measurement (P < .004); at intrapatient subanalysis, this difference was related to the level of transverse measurement used (midvertebra vs off-midline level). Conclusion Normative ranges of L1 vertebra trabecular attenuation were established across all adult ages, and these can serve as a quick reference at routine CT to identify adults with low bone mineral density who are at risk for osteoporosis.

[Available on 2020-05-01]

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