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A review of the use of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) in rheumatology

Authors Tanner B, Moore

Received 8 July 2012

Accepted for publication 15 August 2012

Published 12 December 2012 Volume 2012:4 Pages 99—107

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/OARRR.S29000

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3


S Bobo Tanner, Charles F Moore Jr

Division of Rheumatology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN, USA

Abstract: The principal use of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is to diagnose and monitor osteoporosis and therefore reduce fracture risk, associated morbidity, and mortality. In the field of rheumatology, DXA is an essential component of patient care because of both rheumatologists’ prescription of glucocorticoid treatment as well as the effects of rheumatological diseases on bone health. This review will summarize the use of DXA in the field of rheumatology, including the concern for glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis, as well as the association of osteoporosis with a sampling of such rheumatologic conditions as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus, ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and scleroderma or systemic sclerosis. Medicare guidelines recognize the need to perform DXA studies in patients treated with glucocorticoids, and the World Health Organization FRAX tool uses data from DXA as well as the independent risk factors of RA and glucocorticoid use to predict fracture risk. However, patient access to DXA measurement in the US is in jeopardy as a result of reimbursement restrictions. DXA technology can simultaneously be used to discover vertebral fractures with vertebral fracture assessment and provide patients with a rapid, convenient, and low-radiation opportunity to clarify future fracture and comorbidity risks. An emerging use of DXA technology is the analysis of body composition of RA patients and thus the recognition of “rheumatoid cachexia,” in which patients are noted to have a worse prognosis even when the RA appears well controlled. Therefore, the use of DXA in rheumatology is an important tool for detecting osteoporosis, reducing fracture risk and unfavorable outcomes in rheumatological conditions. The widespread use of glucocorticoids and the underlying inflammatory conditions create a need for assessment with DXA. There are complications of conditions found in rheumatology that could be prevented with more widespread patient access to DXA.

Keywords: dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, FRAX, osteoporosis, rheumatology, vertebral fracture assessment, body composition

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