“Effect of very dense artifacts on Hologic and general electric bone densitometry results”

Academic Article


  • Summary: Very dense artifacts confound bone density measurement. Hologic and GE densitometers exclude artifact density and GE also excludes associated area. Consequently, BMD is decreased with Hologic software. Despite different manufacturers’ approaches, when dense artifacts overlay the spine, the affected vertebral body should be excluded from the reported BMD. Purpose: Very dense objects, such as lead bullets are described as “black hole” artifacts on Hologic densitometers. Whether similar results occur on GE scanners is not reported. We hypothesized that dense artifacts confound both brands of densitometers. Methods: Three lead bullets of varying size were placed overlying or adjacent to L3 on anthropomorphic and encapsulated aluminum spine phantoms. Three scans were acquired with and without projectiles on a Hologic Discovery W, GE iDXA, and Prodigy densitometer. Results: Lead bullets are measured as having high bone mineral content (BMC); they appear black in dual-energy mode on Hologic scanners and are colored blue on GE scanners. On Hologic scanners, BMC of a dense artifact over bone is excluded, but the bone area is not altered. Consequently, bone mineral density (BMD) of the affected vertebra, and of L1–4, is decreased. For example, a.45 caliber bullet over L3 decreased BMD (p < 0.05) by 48.3% and L1–4 by 9.1%. GE scanners excluded associated BMC and area covered by the artifact, thereby minimizing impact on BMD. Dense artifacts over soft tissue on a phantom do not substantially affect BMD on either manufacturer’s densitometer when scanned. Conclusion: Densitometer manufacturers handle very dense artifacts differently. GE software removes artifact BMC and area with resultant minimal impact on BMD, Hologic removes only BMC, not area, thereby decreasing BMD. Regardless of this difference, when dense artifacts overlay the spine, it is best to exclude the affected vertebral body. Finally, the BMD stability observed with artifacts over soft tissue may not be replicated in humans.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Morgan SL; Krueger D; Bassler J; Burroughs L; Borchardt G; Yester M; Binkley N; Redden D
  • Volume

  • 15
  • Issue

  • 1