The lower fracture rates among African-American women relative to Caucasian women may reflect their higher bone mass. However, bone mass is not the only determinant of bone strength: the quality and microarchitecture of the bone are also important. Quantitative ultrasound is believed to measure properties of bone strength that are independent of bone mass. To test the hypothesis that there are racial differences in quantitative ultrasound measures of bone, we recruited 154 African-American women age ⩾65 years. A random sample of 300 Caucasian women participating in the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was chosen for comparison. The Walker Sonix UBA 575+ was used to measure calcaneal broadband ultrasonic attenuation (BUA). Duplicate BUA measurements were obtained with a reproducibility of 5%. We measured bone mineral density (BMD) of the hip and calcaneus using single (calcaneus) or dual (hip) energy X-ray absorptiometry. The correlation between BUA and calcaneal BMD was similar in Caucasians (r=0.66,p<0.001) and African-Americans (r=0.58,p<0.001). Age-adjusted BUA (dB/MHz) was higher among the African-American women than Caucasian women (69.1 and 66.2, respectively), but these differences were not statistically significant, (p=0.12). Adjustment for calcaneal BMD completely attenuated the racial differences in BUA. BMD at the femoral neck and calcaneus was higher among the African-American women, even after adjusting for age, height and weight. In conclusion, our results suggest that racial differences in rates of fracture cannot be explained by differences in bone quality as assessed by ultrasound attenuation.
Bone ultrasoundOsteoporosis fracturesRaceEthnicity