Bone health assessment via digital wrist tomosynthesis in the mammography setting

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Bone fractures attributable to osteoporosis are a significant problem. Though preventative treatment options are available for individuals who are at risk of a fracture, a substantial number of these individuals are not identified due to lack of adherence to bone screening recommendations. The issue is further complicated as standard diagnosis of osteoporosis is based on bone mineral density (BMD) derived from dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), which, while helpful in identifying many at risk, is limited in fully predicting risk of fracture. It is reasonable to expect that bone screening would become more prevalent and efficacious if offered in coordination with digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) exams, provided that osteoporosis can be assessed using a DBT modality. Therefore, the objective of the current study was to explore the feasibility of using digital tomosynthesis imaging in a mammography setting. To this end, we measured density, cortical thickness and microstructural properties of the wrist bone, correlated these to reference measurements from microcomputed tomography and DXA, demonstrated the application in vivo in a small group of participants, and determined the repeatability of the measurements. We found that measurements from digital wrist tomosynthesis (DWT) imaging with a DBT scanner were highly repeatable ex vivo (error = 0.05%-9.62%) and in vivo (error = 0.06%-10.2%). In ex vivo trials, DWT derived BMDs were strongly correlated with reference measurements (R = 0.841-0.980), as were cortical thickness measured at lateral and medial cortices (R = 0.991 and R = 0.959, respectively) and the majority of microstructural measures (R = 0.736-0.991). The measurements were quick and tolerated by human patients with no discomfort, and appeared to be different between young and old participants in a preliminary comparison. In conclusion, DWT is feasible in a mammography setting, and informative on bone mass, cortical thickness, and microstructural qualities that are known to deteriorate in osteoporosis. To our knowledge, this study represents the first application of DBT for imaging bone. Future clinical studies are needed to further establish the efficacy for diagnosing osteoporosis and predicting risk of fragility fracture using DWT.

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