The comparability of HR-pQCT bone measurements is improved by scanning anatomically standardized regions

S. Bonaretti, S. Majumdar, T. F. Lang, S. Khosla, A. J. Burghardt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Summary: We investigated the sensitivity of distal bone density, structure, and strength measurements by high-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography (HR-pQCT) to variability in limb length. Our results demonstrate that HR-pQCT should be performed at a standard %-of-total-limb-length to avoid substantial measurement bias in population study comparisons and the evaluation of individual skeletal status in a clinical context. Introduction: High-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography (HR-pQCT) measures of bone do not account for anatomic variability in bone length: a 1-cm volume is acquired at a fixed offset from an anatomic landmark. Our goal was to evaluate HR-pQCT measurement variability introduced by imaging fixed vs. proportional volumes and to propose a standard protocol for relative anatomic positioning. Methods: Double-length (2-cm) scans were acquired in 30 adults. We compared measurements from 1-cm sub-volumes located at the default fixed offset, and the average %-of-length offset. The average position corresponded to 4.0% ± 1.1 mm for radius, and 7.2% ± 2.2 mm for tibia. We calculated the RMS difference in bone parameters and T-scores to determine the measurement variability related to differences in limb length. We used anthropometric ratios to estimate the mean limb length for published HR-pQCT reference data, and then calculated mean %-of-length offsets. Results: Variability between fixed vs. relative scan positions was highest in the radius, and for cortical bone in general (RMS difference Ct.Th = 19.5%), while individuals had T-score differentials as high as +3.0 SD (radius Ct.BMD). We estimated that average scan position for published HR-pQCT reference data corresponded to 4.0% at the radius, and 7.3% at tibia. Conclusion: Variability in limb length introduces significant bias to HR-pQCT measures, confounding cross-sectional analyses and limiting the clinical application for individual assessment of skeletal status. We propose to standardize scan positioning using 4.0 and 7.3% of total bone length for the distal radius and tibia, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2115-2128
Number of pages14
JournalOsteoporosis International
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017


  • Bone
  • HR-pQCT
  • Multicenter study
  • Osteoporosis
  • Precision
  • Standardization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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