Proximal femur hounsfield units on CT colonoscopy correlate with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry

Daniel L. Christensen, Kyle E. Nappo, Jared A. Wolfe, Sean M. Wade, Daniel I. Brooks, Benjamin K. Potter, Jonathan A. Forsberg, Scott M. Tintle*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


BackgroundQuantifying bone mineral density (BMD) on CT using commercial software demonstrates good-to-excellent correlations with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) results. However, previous techniques to measure Hounsfield units (HUs) within the proximal femur demonstrate less successful correlation with DEXA results. An effective method of measuring HUs of the proximal femur from CT colonoscopy might allow for opportunistic osteoporosis screening.Questions/purposes(1) Do proximal femur HU measurements from CT colonoscopy correlate with proximal femur DEXA results? (2) How effective is our single HU measurement technique in estimating the likelihood of overall low BMD? (3) Does the relationship between our comprehensive HU measurement and DEXA results change based on age, sex, or time between studies?MethodsThis retrospective study investigated the measurement of HU of the femur obtained on CT colonoscopy studies compared with DEXA results. Between 2010 and 2017, five centers performed 9085 CT colonoscopy studies; of those, 277 (3%) also had available DEXA results and were included in this study, whereas 8809 (97%) were excluded for inadequate CT imaging, lack of DEXA screening, or lack of proximal femur DEXA results. The median number of days between CT colonoscopy and DEXA scan was 595 days; no patient was excluded based on time between scans because bone remodeling is a long-term process and this allowed subgroup analysis based on time between scans. Two reviewers performed HU measurements at four points within the proximal femur on the CT colonoscopy imaging and intraclass correlation coefficients were used to evaluate interrater reliability. We used Pearson correlation coefficients to compare the comprehensive (average of eight measurements) and a single HU measurement with each DEXA result-proximal femur BMD, proximal femur T-score, femoral neck BMD, and femoral neck T-score-to identify the best measurement technique within this study. Based on their lowest DEXA T-score, we stratified patients to a diagnosis of osteoporosis, osteopenia, or normal BMD. We then calculated the area under the receiver operator characteristic curves (AUCs) to evaluate the classification ability of a single HU value to identify possible threshold(s) for detecting low BMD. For each subgroup analysis, we calculated Pearson correlation coefficients between DEXA and HUs and evaluated each subgroup's contribution to the overall predictive model using an interaction test in a linear regression model.ResultsThe Pearson correlation coefficient between both the comprehensive and single HU measurements was highest compared with the proximal femur T-score at 0.75 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.69-0.80) and 0.74 (95% CI, 0.68-0.79), respectively. Interobserver reliability, measured with intraclass correlation coefficients, for the comprehensive and single HU measurements was 0.97 (95% CI, 0.72-0.99) and 0.96 (95% CI, 0.89-0.98), respectively. Based on DEXA results, 20 patients were osteoporotic, 167 had osteopenia, and 90 patients had normal BMD. The mean comprehensive HU for patients with osteoporosis was 70 ± 30 HUs; for patients with osteopenia, it was 110 ± 36 HUs; and for patients with normal BMD, it was 158 ± 43 HUs (p < 0.001). The AUC of the single HU model was 0.82 (95% CI, 0.77-0.87). A threshold of 214 HUs is 100% sensitive and 59 HUs is 100% specific to identify low BMD; a threshold of 113 HUs provided 73% sensitivity and 76% specificity. When stratified by decade age groups, each decade age group demonstrated a positive correlation between the comprehensive HU and proximal femur T-score, ranging between 0.71 and 0.83 (95% CI, 0.59-0.91). Further subgroup analysis similarly demonstrated a positive correlation between the comprehensive HU and proximal femur T-score when stratified by > 6 months or < 6 months between CT and DEXA (0.75; 95% CI, 0.62-0.84) as well as when stratified by sex (0.70-0.76; 95% CI, 0.48-0.81). The linear regression model demonstrated that the overall positive correlation coefficient between HUs and the proximal femur T-score is not influenced by any subgroup.ConclusionsOur measurement technique provides a reproducible measurement of HUs within the proximal femur HUs on CT colonoscopy. Hounsfield units of the proximal femur based on this technique can predict low BMD. These CT scans are frequently performed before initial DEXA scans are done and therefore may lead to earlier recognition of low BMD. Future research is needed to validate these results in larger studies and to determine if these results can anticipate future fracture risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)850-860
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Orthopaedics and Related Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


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