Feasibility of bone density evaluation using plain digital radiography

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2011 Nov;19(11):1343-8. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2011.08.003. Epub 2011 Aug 17.


Objective: For the radiographic evaluation of subchondral bone changes (sclerosis) in osteoarthritis (OA), bone density (BD) is commonly subjectively assessed. BD evaluation using plain digital radiography might be influenced by acquisition and post-processing (PP) settings. Objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of these settings on the measurement of BD using digital radiographs.

Methods: A bone density standard (BDS) of hydroxyapatite (HA) mimicked a BD range of 1.0-5.75 g/cm(2). Digital radiographs were acquired with variation in acquisition settings, and with clinical and minimal PP. An aluminum step wedge served as an internal reference to express the gray values of the BDS in mm aluminum equivalents (mmAl). The relation (R(2)) between actual BD and BD normalized to the reference wedge was evaluated with linear regression analyses for radiographs with variations in PP and acquisition settings. Precision of BD measurement of the BDS was evaluated for application in clinical practice.

Results: The correlation between actual BD and BD normalized to the reference was improved by changing PP from clinical (R(2)=0.96) to minimal (R(2)=0.98). Higher tube voltage [kilovolt (kV)] improved the correlation further. Even for clinical PP, average standard deviation (SD) was 0.97 mmAl, much smaller than the change of 2.51 mmAl clinically observed in early OA, which implies the feasibility of BD measurements on digital radiographs.

Conclusion: Changing PP and acquisition settings in clinical practice can have profound effect on outcome. If done with care, accurate BD measurement is feasible using plain digital radiography.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Biocompatible Materials*
  • Bone Density / physiology*
  • Durapatite*
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Models, Biological
  • Radiographic Image Enhancement / methods*
  • Radiographic Image Enhancement / standards
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Durapatite