Precision assessment and radiation safety for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry: position paper of the International Society for Clinical Densitometry

J Clin Densitom. Winter 2005;8(4):371-8. doi: 10.1385/jcd:8:4:371.


Measurement of bone mineral density (BMD) by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is used to diagnose osteoporosis, assess the risk of fracture, and monitor changes in BMD over time. Because biological changes in BMD are usually small in proportion to the error inherent in the test itself, interpretation of serial BMD tests depends on knowledge of the smallest change in BMD that is beyond the range of error. This value, called the least significant change (LSC), varies according to the instrument used, the patient population being tested, the measurement site, the skill of the technologist at positioning the patient and analyzing the test, and the confidence interval used in the calculation. The precision and LSC values provided by the manufacturer cannot be applied to clinical bone densitometry centers because of the differences in the patients being tested and the technologist performing the test. Because harmful errors in clinical management may occur from incorrectly interpreting serial BMD tests, it is recommended that every DXA technologist conduct a precision assessment and calculate the LSC for each measurement site and DXA instrument used. Precision assessment provides direct benefit to patients by allowing clinicians to make clinical decisions based on genuine change or stability of BMD. The patient-care benefits of precision assessment outweigh the risk of exposure to trivial doses of ionizing radiation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon / standards
  • Bone Density
  • Humans
  • Osteoporosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radiation Monitoring / standards*
  • Safety Management*