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Influence of handedness on calcaneal ultrasound: implications for assessment of osteoporosis and study design


Calcaneal ultrasound has been increasingly studied for its potential in the assessment of osteoporotic fracture risk. The accuracy of such an assessment is, in part, dependent on the reproducibility of the measurement. This study examines the impact of handedness on ultrasound measurements [broadband ultrasound attenuation (BUA) and velocity of sound (VOS)] in the calcaneus. Two hundred and sixty-four subjects (57 men and 297 women) aged 51.1 +/- 13.6 years (mean +/- SD) were studied. For each subject, calcaneal ultrasound measurements were performed on both heels with a McCue CUBA ultrasound densitometer. Right-handed dominance (94.7%) was determined by structured interview. In men, BUA measurements were significantly higher on the dominant side: mean difference 4.1 +/- 1.5 dB/MHz (mean +/- SD; p = 0.009), equivalent to 4.2 +/- 1.5% and more than 4 times the average rate of annual change in BUA. The difference between sides was greater in young (< 50 years) than old men (> 50 years). Among the women, the difference was not statistically significant (0.7 +/- 0.9 dB/MHz; p = 0.4); however, it was significant in younger women (20-30 years) (99 +/- 4 vs 90 +/- 4 dB/MHz, p = 0.01). By contrast VOS did not differ between sides in either men or women irrespective of age. Within-subject standard deviation of BUA was 9.8 dB/MHz for men and 8.6 dB/ MHz for women and the component due to right and left difference was 8.4 dB/MHz for men and 6.9 dB/MHz for women. This variability of BUA between right and left heels could increase the false-positive rate by up to 28% for a cut-off of 2 SD below the mean. These data indicate that variation between left and right heel measurements of BUA is higher than that of random error measurements, particularly in men and younger, presumably more physically active subjects. Although VOS measurements were not side dependent, in the smaller number of studies examining VOS and fracture risk, VOS appears to have a weaker predictive power than BUA. Clinical and epidemiological studies involving calcaneal BUA measurements should standardize the side measured to either the dominant or non-dominant heel, to reduce within-subject variation and increase their power.

Type Journal
ISBN 0937-941X (Print)
Authors Howard, G. M.;Nguyen, T. V.;Pocock, N. A.;Kelly, P. J.;Eisman, J. A. :
Responsible Garvan Author Prof Tuan Nguyen
Published Date 1997-01-01
Published Volume 7
Published Issue 3
Published Pages 190-4
Status Published in-print
URL link to publisher's version
OpenAccess link to author's accepted manuscript version