The impact of recent technological advances on the trueness and precision of DXA to assess body composition

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 Jan;20(1):30-9. doi: 10.1038/oby.2011.211. Epub 2011 Jul 14.


The introduction of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) in the 1980s for the assessment of areal bone mineral density (BMD) greatly benefited the field of bone imaging and the ability to diagnose and monitor osteoporosis. The additional capability of DXA to differentiate between bone mineral, fat tissue, and lean tissue has contributed to its emergence as a popular tool to assess body composition. Throughout the past 2 decades, technological advancements such as the transition from the original pencil-beam densitometers to the most recent narrow fan-beam densitometers have allowed for faster scan times and better resolution. The majority of reports that have compared DXA-derived body composition measurements to the gold standard method of body composition appraisal, the four-compartment model, have observed significant differences with this criterion method; however, the extent to which the technological advancements of the DXA have impacted its ability to accurately assess body composition remains unclear. Thus, this paper reviews the evidence regarding the trueness and precision of DXA body composition measurements from the pencil-beam to the narrow fan-beam densitometers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon / instrumentation*
  • Absorptiometry, Photon / trends
  • Adipose Tissue / diagnostic imaging*
  • Body Composition*
  • Bone Density*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity