The Use of Distal Ulnar Hounsfield Units to Predict Future Fragility Fracture Risk

Theodora C. Dworak, Scott C. Wagner*, Kyle E. Nappo, George C. Balazs, Patrick D. Grimm, Donald F. Colantonio, Scott M. Tintle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Purpose: Distal ulnar Hounsfield unit (HU) measurements obtained from computed tomography (CT) scans of the wrist can be used to accurately screen for low bone mineral density. It is unknown whether HU measurements can also predict the risk of future fragility fractures. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine if the HU values of the distal ulna correlate to fragility fracture risk. Methods: An electronic database of radiographs at a single institution was searched for all wrist CT scans, obtained for any reason, between January 1, 2002, and December 31, 2008, to allow a minimum of 5-year follow-up. Manual measurement of HU on sequential coronal CT slices of the distal ulnar head was taken, and mean values were recorded. Previously determined cutoff values for the diagnosis of low bone mineral density were implemented to stratify patients as at risk or not at risk for future fragility fracture. Medical records were then manually reviewed for the occurrence of any future fragility fracture (hip, spine, proximal humerus, or rib). Results: There were 161 CTs in 157 patients and 34 fragility fractures in 21 patients, with a prevalence of 13.4%. The mean HU in the fragility fracture group was significantly lower (134.2 vs 197.1 HU). The percentage of low HU patients with fragility fractures was significantly higher (22.7% vs 3.8%). The odds ratio for fragility fracture in the low HU group was 7.4 (95% confidence interval, 2.1–26.2). Using previously determined cutoff values, the sensitivity and specificity of distal ulna HU values for identifying patients who would sustain at least 1 future fragility fracture were 85.7% and 55.2%, respectively. Conclusions: Patients with low distal ulnar HU were significantly more likely to sustain a subsequent fragility fracture. A determination of distal ulnar HUs represents a quick, simple tool to identify patients potentially at risk for fragility fractures. Type of study/level of evidence: Prognostic IV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1010-1015
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • fragility fracture
  • Hounsfield unit
  • screening test
  • Wrist computed tomography


Dive into the research topics of 'The Use of Distal Ulnar Hounsfield Units to Predict Future Fragility Fracture Risk'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this