Article

Spinal Cord (1996) 34, 736–741; doi:10.1038/sc.1996.134

Ultrasound bone densitometry and dual energy X-ray absorptiometry in patients with spinal cord injury: a cross-sectional study

Y W Chow1, C Inman2, P Pollintine1, C A Sharp1, M J Haddaway1, W El Masry2 and M W J Davie1

  1. 1Charles Salt Research Centre, Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic and District Hospital NHS Trust, Oswestry, Shropshire SY10 7AG, UK
  2. 2Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries, Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic and District Hospital NHS Trust, Oswestry, Shropshire SY10 7AG, UK

Correspondence: YW Chow, PhD, Charles Salt Research Centre, Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic and District Hospital NHS Trust, Oswestry, Shropshire SY10 7AG, UK

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Abstract

Bone is lost following spinal cord injury (SCI) and in the long-term may become osteopenic and liable to fracture. Two non-invasive techniques, ultrasound bone densitometry (USBD) and dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), have been applied to monitor bone changes after spinal injury. 31 SCI patients were scanned using an ultrasound bone densitometer, to give measurements of speed of sound (SOS), broadband ultrasound attenuation (BUA) and 'stiffness'. The time since injury of these patients ranged between 5 weeks to 36 years with a mean of 5.87±10.21 years. Ultrasonic properties at the calcaneus of these patients were significantly lower than the healthy reference population, and a rapid decline in ultrasound properties occurred in the first 3 months. The fall continued up to 54 months but at a slower rate. The normal linear relationship between SOS and BUA was not altered by SCI. Eighteen patients had DXA measurements at the lumbar spine and the right proximal femur. Bone mineral density (BMD) at the femoral neck was significantly lower than the normal reference population (P<0.05). SOS and 'stiffness' correlated significantly with BMD at the lumbar spine, Ward's triangle, the femoral neck, the greater trochan ter and the intertrochanteric site (P<0.05). BUA correlated significantly at all these sites with the exception of the trochanter. A negative correlation was found between the ultrasonic properties at the calcaneus and BMD at the lumbar spine which is in contrast to the positive relationship in normal subjects. There was a tendency for BMD to increase at the lumbar spine after the first 12 months after injury, although this trend was not significant overall. The 'stiffness' at the calcaneus and BMD at the femoral neck were lower than the reference population following 12 months since injury. These results show that bone deficit at the calcaneus occurs rapidly and to a severe degree after SCI, and that ultrasound has an important role to play in the assessment of bone status in these patients.

Keywords:

spinal cord injury; ultrasound; dual energy X-ray absorptiometry; bone mineral density; speed of sound; broadband ultrasound attenuation

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