The effect that growth has on dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) bone measurements is yet to be fully defined. The purpose of this study was to determine the best method for optimizing pediatric bone measurements using DXA. Height, weight, body mass index, skeletal age, and Tanner stage of sexual development were determined for 64 healthy boys and 60 healthy girls ages 6-17 yr. DXA of the lumbar vertebrae was performed to measure bone mineral content (BMC, grams) and areal bone mineral density (aBMD, grams per square centimeter), and geometric corrections were used to calculate volumetric bone mineral densities (vBMD): vBMD1 = aBMD/ radical(DXA-area) and vBMD2 = aBMD/bone height. Computed tomography (CT) imaging was performed to measure volumetric bone density (vBD) and vertebral volume (Vol) and to calculate CT-BMC = vBD * Vol. Linear regression was used to compare DXA-BMC vs. CT-BMC and CT vBD vs. DXA aBMD, vBMD1, and vBMD2. Multiple regression including the anthropometric and developmental parameters was also performed. DXA and CT BMC were highly correlated (r2= 0.94). However, DXA aBMD correlated more strongly with CT Vol (r2= 0.68) than with CT density (r2= 0.39), and calculation of DXA volumetric densities only slightly improved the density correlations (r2= 0.49 for vBMD1; r2= 0.55 for BMD2). The correlations for density were particularly poor for subjects in Tanner stages 1-3 (r2= 0.02 for aBMD; r2= 0.13 for vBMD1; r2= 0.27 for vBMD2). In contrast, multiple regression accounting for the anthropometric and developmental parameters greatly improved the agreement between the DXA and CT densities (r2= 0.91). These results suggest that DXA BMC is a more accurate and reliable measure than DXA BMD for assessing bone acquisition, particularly for prepubertal children and those in the early stages of sexual development. Use of DXA BMD would be reasonable if adjustments for body size, pubertal status, and skeletal maturity are made, but these additional assessments add significant complexity to the studies.
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