Precision and accuracy of computed digital absorptiometry for assessment of bone density of the hand

Osteoporos Int. 1997;7(5):444-9. doi: 10.1007/s001980050031.


Widespread osteoporosis testing and diagnosis are currently limited due to the high capital cost and reduced portability of many existing bone densitometry techniques. In this study we evaluated an inexpensive, low radiation, X-ray-based technique for assessing bone density of the middle phalanx. The technique, termed computed digital absorptiometry (CDA), is similar to radiographic absorptiometry (RA), using a single-energy X-ray source, an aluminum alloy step-wedge, and a charge-coupled device (CCD) detector system to automatically compute bone mineral content (BMC, g) and bone mineral density (BMD, g/cm2) in the middle phalanx of the third finger. The potential advantage of CDA over current RA techniques is that by using a filmless detector system, no off-site processing of radiographs is required and bone density results are obtained immediately after the test. Using human cadaveric specimens we determined the accuracy and short-term precision of CDA as well as its correlation with other hand and forearm bone densitometry methods. We obtained 26 cadaveric forearms (50% female, mean age 78 years, range 52-96 years). BMC and BMD of the middle phalanx of the third finger were determined using CDA and using RA. We assessed forearm BMC and BMD using single-energy and dualenergy X-ray absorptiometry (SXA and DXA). Precision of CDA was assessed by measuring ten of the specimens five times each with repositioning between measurements. Finally, the middle phalanx was dissected and incinerated to determine ash weight. BMC estimates from CDA and from RA were strongly correlated with ash weight (r = 0.89, p < 0.001 and r = 0.93, p < 0.001, respectively). The mean coefficients of variation using CDA were 1.36% and 0.70% for phalanx BMC and BMD, respectively. BMC and BMD measured by CDA were strongly correlated with hand and forearm bone mineral measurements performed by SXA, DXA and RA (r = 0.74-0.91). These results indicate that CDA accurately and precisely predicts BMC of the middle phalanx. Thus, with further clinical verification, this technique may prove to be a useful tool for the widespread testing and assessment of osteoporotic fracture risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon / methods*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bone Density*
  • Female
  • Fingers / physiopathology*
  • Hand / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis / diagnosis*
  • Osteoporosis / physiopathology
  • Radius / physiopathology
  • Ulna / physiopathology