Radiation exposure in bone mineral density assessment

C F Njeh, T Fuerst, D Hans, G M Blake, H K Genant

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203 Citations (Scopus)


Osteoporosis is a systematic skeletal disease characterized by low bone mass and microarchitectural deterioration of bone tissue which leads to diminished biomechanical competence of the skeleton and low-trauma or atraumatic fractures. Due to increased awareness of the impact of osteoporosis on the elderly population, the use of bone densitometric techniques is becoming more widespread. Considerable progress has been made in the development of non-invasive methods for the assessment of the skeleton. While DXA and QCT are commonly used techniques, the popularity of other approaches such as RA, SXA and QUS is gaining grounds. QCT has an advantage over the other techniques in its ability to measure the true volumetric density of trabecular or cortical bone. We therefore present an overview of these current techniques for bone mineral density (BMD) measurements. In the second section we discuss the radiation doses incurred in BMD measurements by patients and methods for reducing patient and staff radiation exposure are given. Studies of radiation dose to patient from DXA confirms that patient dose is small (0.08-4.6 muSv) compared to that given by many other investigations involving ionizing radiation. Fan beam technology with increased resolution has resulted in increase patient dose radiation dose (6.7-31 muSv) but this is still relatively small. Carrying vertebral morphometry using DXA also incurs less radiation dose (<60 muSv) than standard lateral radiographs QCT has radiation dose (25-360 muSv) comparable to simple radiological examination such as chest X-ray but lower than imaging CT. Radiation dose from other techniques such as RA and SXA are in the same order of magnitude as pencil beam DXA. For pencil beam DXA and SXA systems the time average dose to staff from scatter is very low even with the operator sitting as close as 1 m from the patient during measurement. However the scatter dose from fan beam DXA systems is considerable higher and approaches limits set by regulator bodies for occupational exposure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-36
Number of pages22
JournalApplied Radiation and Isotopes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1999


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