Aging Clinical and Experimental Research

, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 1047–1060 | Cite as

The role of DXA in sarcopenia

  • Giuseppe GuglielmiEmail author
  • Federico Ponti
  • Margherita Agostini
  • Michele Amadori
  • Giuseppe Battista
  • Alberto Bazzocchi


Sarcopenia is a condition characterized by progressive and generalized reduction in skeletal muscle mass and muscle strength, associated with an increased risk of adverse outcomes (disability, hospitalization, death). The growing attention in the last years, aiming to establish a consensus definition and treatment, reflects the interest of the scientific community toward this complex condition, which has many implications in clinical practice and public health. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is the gold-standard technique in the analysis of body composition at molecular level, providing assessment and quantification of fat mass, lean mass and bone mineral content, both in a single body region of interest and at whole-body level. In particular, through the assessment of non-bone lean mass parameters, such as appendicular lean mass adjusted for BMI or height (ALM/BMI and ALM/ht2, respectively), it is possible to discriminate subjects with “physiological” loss of muscle mass from those with “pathological” impoverishment of this compartment, referring to specific cutoff values validated in the literature, but keeping in mind the lack of standardization of DXA measures. In addition, it is useful in treatment planning, estimating resting energy expenditure, and in follow-up, because it allows quantifying with high reproducibility the modifications in BC, distinguishing when the change is biological (deterioration due to a progression of the disease or improvement due to treatment). Due to DXA favorability in terms of accuracy, simplicity, availability, low cost and low radiation exposure, its role in sarcopenia diagnosis is becoming increasingly important, emerging as reference assessment technique in muscle mass evaluation.


Sarcopenia Aging Absorptiometry Photon Muscle Body composition Diagnosis 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giuseppe Guglielmi
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Federico Ponti
    • 3
    • 4
  • Margherita Agostini
    • 3
  • Michele Amadori
    • 3
  • Giuseppe Battista
    • 3
  • Alberto Bazzocchi
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of RadiologyUniversity of FoggiaFoggiaItaly
  2. 2.Department of RadiologyScientific Institute “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza” HospitalSan Giovanni RotondoItaly
  3. 3.Department of Specialized, Diagnostic, and Experimental Medicine, Sant’Orsola - Malpighi HospitalUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly
  4. 4.Diagnostic and Interventional RadiologyThe “Rizzoli” Orthopaedic InstituteBolognaItaly

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