Vertebral Fractures Assessment in Children: Evaluation of DXA imaging versus Conventional Spine Radiography

Nicola Crabtree, Steve Chapman, Wolfgang Högler, Kirsty Hodgson, Dee Chapman, Natalie Bebbington, Nick J Shaw

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Vertebral fracture assessment (VFA) by DXA is an accepted tool in adults. However, its use in children has not been assessed. The aim of this study was to evaluate DXA VFA and morphometric analysis (MXA) using a GE Lunar iDXA bone densitometer against spinal radiographic assessment (RA) for the identification of vertebral fractures in children. Spine RA and VFA (T3–L5) were acquired on the same day in 80 children. Forty children considered high risk for fracture by their metabolic bone specialist were referred for spinal RA. Another 40 children were recruited as part of a prospective fracture study and were considered low risk for vertebral fracture. Agreement between RA and VFA was assessed by an expert paediatric radiologist and two paediatricians with expertise in bone pathology. Agreement between RA and MXA was assessed by an expert paediatric radiologist, two clinical scientists and an experienced paediatric radiographer. Vertebrae were ranked as normal, mild, moderate or severe if they had < 10%, 11–25%, 26–50% and > 50% deformity, respectively. Levels of agreement were calculated using the Cohen kappa score. Evaluating the data from all readable vertebrae, 121 mild, 44 moderate and 16 severe vertebral fractures were identified; with 26, 8, and 5 subjects having at least one mild, moderate or severe fracture, respectively. Depending on rater, 92.8–94.8% of the vertebrae were evaluable by RA. In contrast, 98.4% were evaluable by VFA and only 83.6% were evaluable by MXA. Moderate agreement was found between raters for RA [kappa 0.526–0.592], and VFA [kappa 0.601–0.658] and between RA and VFA [kappa 0.630–0.687]. In contrast, only slight agreement was noted between raters for MXA [kappa 0.361–0.406] and between VFA and MXA [kappa 0.137–0.325]. Agreement substantially improved if the deformities were dichotomised as normal or mild versus moderate or severe [kappa 0.826–0.834]. For the detection of moderate and/or severe fractures the sensitivities & specificities were 81.3% & 99.3%, and 62.5% & 99.2% for VFA and MXA, respectively. This study demonstrates that VFA is as good as RA for detecting moderate and severe vertebral fractures. Given the significant radiation dose saving of VFA compared with RA, VFA is recommended as a diagnostic tool for the assessment of moderate or severe vertebral fracture in children.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-174
Early online date7 Jan 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Jan 2017


  • Vertebral fracture assessment
  • Fracture
  • Paediatric
  • Bone density
  • DXA
  • X-ray


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