The OsteoQuant: An Isotope-Based CT Scanner for Precise Measurement of Bone Density

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Objective: We attempted to design and construct a computed tomography scanner with an in vivo precision of better than 0.5% for trabecular bone density of the radius.

Materials and Methods: A number of considerations involving physical limitations, stability of the system, and cost led to the development of the Osteo-Quant, an isotope-based computed tomography scanner working on the trans-late-rotate principle. With 16 detectors providing a total of 128 projections and 256 data points per projection, the measurement time for one cross section is typically 90 s. Optimal for bone measurements in arms and legs, 125I was chosen as the photon source. The detectors are photomultipliers with Na1(TI) crystals employed in the counting mode. Usually, six to ten slices are measured at a given site, 2 mm apart from each other, and bone density is calculated for trabecular, subcompact, and compact bone. For repeat measurements, the evaluation sites are carefully matched, and the same volume of bone is analyzed at each measurement occasion.

Results: The long-term precision of the scanner, measured with a water cylinder, is 0.03%. This error includes the performance of the scanner hardware, calibration of the photon count rates, and reconstruction process. In vivo precision is influenced by additional factors such as slice positioning, patient cooperation, and bone contour detection. At the distal end of the tibia, trabecular bone density can be measured with a precision of 0.1%. The error for trabecular bone density in the radius is 0.3%.

Conclusion: The OsteoQuant surpasses the design goals and represents an ideal instrument to assess small changes in bone density over time.

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