Biomechanical Computed Tomography analysis (BCT) for clinical assessment of osteoporosis

T. M. Keaveny, B. L. Clarke, F. Cosman, E. S. Orwoll, E. S. Siris, S. Khosla, M. L. Bouxsein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Abstract: The surgeon general of the USA defines osteoporosis as “a skeletal disorder characterized by compromised bone strength, predisposing to an increased risk of fracture.” Measuring bone strength, Biomechanical Computed Tomography analysis (BCT), namely, finite element analysis of a patient’s clinical-resolution computed tomography (CT) scan, is now available in the USA as a Medicare screening benefit for osteoporosis diagnostic testing. Helping to address under-diagnosis of osteoporosis, BCT can be applied “opportunistically” to most existing CT scans that include the spine or hip regions and were previously obtained for an unrelated medical indication. For the BCT test, no modifications are required to standard clinical CT imaging protocols. The analysis provides measurements of bone strength as well as a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA)–equivalent bone mineral density (BMD) T-score at the hip and a volumetric BMD of trabecular bone at the spine. Based on both the bone strength and BMD measurements, a physician can identify osteoporosis and assess fracture risk (high, increased, not increased), without needing confirmation by DXA. To help introduce BCT to clinicians and health care professionals, we describe in this review the currently available clinical implementation of the test (VirtuOst), its application for managing patients, and the underlying supporting evidence; we also discuss its main limitations and how its results can be interpreted clinically. Together, this body of evidence supports BCT as an accurate and convenient diagnostic test for osteoporosis in both sexes, particularly when used opportunistically for patients already with CT. Mini Abstract: Biomechanical Computed Tomography analysis (BCT) uses a patient’s CT scan to measure both bone strength and bone mineral density at the hip or spine. Performing at least as well as DXA for both diagnosing osteoporosis and assessing fracture risk, BCT is particularly well-suited to “opportunistic” use for the patient without a recent DXA who is undergoing or has previously undergone CT testing (including hip or spine regions) for an unrelated medical condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1025-1048
Number of pages24
JournalOsteoporosis International
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Biomechanical computed tomography
  • Bone mineral density
  • Bone strength
  • Finite element analysis
  • Fracture risk
  • Osteoporosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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