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Abstract

An algorithm was developed to estimate the strength of the femoral neck from data generated by the dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA). This algorithm considers shape of the proximal femur as well as cross-sectional moment of inertia (CSMI) in the estimate. Proximal femora (10) from cadavers of white adults and an aluminum step wedge were scanned with the Lunar DPX to validate the calculation of CSMI. After scanning, each femoral neck was sectioned at its narrowest portion for direct measurement of CSMI. Three healthy young women were scanned five times each to evaluate the reproducibility of geometric measurements using DXA. There was a strong linear association between the CSMI measured directly and using DXA in both cadaver bones (r2 = 0.96) and the aluminum step wedge (r2 = 0.99). The coefficient of variation for CSMI from repeated measurements using DXA was less than 3%. This indicates that it is possible to estimate reproducibly the bending rigidity of bone from DXA measurements. The data from 306 normal subjects were analyzed to investigate geometric changes in the femoral neck with age. Although there was no strong correlation between CSMI and age in normal subjects of either sex, safety factor (SF, an index of strength of the femoral neck during walking) and fall index (FI, an index of the strength of the femoral neck during a fall) decrease with age in both sexes. We observed an alteration of the geometric structure of the femoral neck with age that may increase the stress on the femoral neck and decrease SF and FI.