, Volume 66, Issue 1, pp 1-4

The Relationship Between Phalangeal Bone Density and Vertebral Deformities

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Radiographic absorptiometry (RA) of the phalanges is a convenient and reliable technique for measuring bone mineral density (BMD). It needs only a radiograph of the hand, which can be sent for evaluation to a central facility, whereas other techniques require specialized equipment. We assessed the relationship between RA measurements and the presence of vertebral deformities in a population-based cohort of postmenopausal women, and to compare the results with simultaneously obtained BMD of the hip by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). A total of 389 women aged 55–84 (mean age 67.2 years, SD 8.7) were randomly selected from a large general practice. RA, DXA of the hip, and vertebral deformities in the lateral spine X-rays by vertebral morphometry were assessed. Thirty-eight women (9.8%) had severe (grade II) vertebral deformities, and their BMD at the phalanges and femoral neck was significantly lower than that of women without severe vertebral deformities. Odds ratios for the presence of severe vertebral deformities of 1.5 (95% CI: 1.1–2.1) for RA and 1.3 (95% CI: 0.9–1.9) for DXA, together with similar receiver operating characteristics curves, were found using age-adjusted logistic regression. Phalangeal BMD is related to vertebral deformities at least as closely as BMD of the femoral neck BMD. RA may therefore help to evaluate fracture risk, especially if no DXA equipment is available.

Received: 21 July 1998 / Accepted: 1 July 1999