Osteoporosis International

, Volume 17, Issue 12, pp 1772–1780 | Cite as

The prevalence of significant left-right differences in hip bone mineral density

Original Article



We determined the prevalence of left-right differences in hip bone mineral density (BMD) by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and the resultant consequence, namely: the frequency at which patients would be classified differently if lumbar spine and only one hip (rather than both hips) were measured.


This was a retrospective DXA scan reanalysis of 3012 white women ≥50 yrs who had scans of both hips using Hologic DXA systems. The difference between left and right hips was considered significant if it exceeded the least significant change (LSC) for any of three hip subregions (total hip, femoral neck, trochanter). The number of women with osteoporosis in both hips, the left hip only, or the right hip only was determined by lowest T-score from total hip, femoral neck, or trochanter.


Despite high left-right correlations of subregion BMD, significant left-right differences in BMD were common: the difference exceeded the LSC for 47% of women at total hip, 31% at femoral neck, and 56% at trochanter. Left-right differences in BMD that exceeded the LSC affected the percent agreement of left-right hip classification: for all women irrespective of spine status, there was 77% classification (diagnostic) agreement in hip pairs in which the left-right hip BMD difference exceeded the LSC versus 87% agreement in which LSC was not exceeded (significant difference in proportions, P<0.0001). The greatest risk of different classification would occur in women with normal spines as the diagnosis might be determined by hip T-scores. Using L1-4 lumbar spine T-scores, 1229 women were normal at the spine. Twenty-four (2%) were osteoporotic at both hips. However, 12 women (1%) were osteoporotic only in the left hip (significantly different from zero, P<0.001) and 11 (1%) only in the right hip (P<0.001); of these 23 women, the difference in BMD between the osteoporotic hip and the contralateral hip exceeded the LSC in 16 (70% of those with osteoporosis in only one hip). Using L1-4 lumbar spine T-scores, 1159 women were osteopenic at the spine. Of these, 126 (11%) were osteoporotic at both hips, 54 (5%) only in the left hip (P<0.001), and 42 (4%) only in the right hip (P<0.001); of these 96 women, the difference in BMD between the osteoporotic hip and the contralateral hip exceeded the LSC in 56 (58% of those with osteoporosis in only one hip).


A statistically significant number of women with osteoporosis are potentially classified differently when scanning only one hip as a result of the high prevalence of left-right differences in BMD. Although the percentages are low, the total number of women affected may be large. From a public health perspective, the practice of scanning both hips could potentially identify more women with osteoporosis and may help prevent future hip fractures.


Bone mineral density Dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry Hip Osteoporosis T-score 


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Copyright information

© International Osteoporosis Foundation and National Osteoporosis Foundation 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Hamdy
    • 1
  • G. M. Kiebzak
    • 2
    • 5
  • E. Seier
    • 3
  • N. B. Watts
    • 4
  1. 1.Osteoporosis Center, College of MedicineEast Tennessee State University and VAMCJohnson CityUSA
  2. 2.Center for Orthopaedic Research and EducationSt. Luke’s Episcopal HospitalHoustonUSA
  3. 3.Department of MathematicsEast Tennessee State UniversityJohnson CityUSA
  4. 4.University of Cincinnati College of MedicineCincinnatiUSA
  5. 5.Center for Orthopaedic Research and EducationSt. Luke’s Belmont CenterHoustonUSA

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