Researchers provide missing data for new bone health tool

The wealth of data collected via the Geelong Osteoporosis Study continues to contribute to the development of new technology, with a recent study revealing how its data can be applied to a new diagnostic tool that has improved the detection of osteoporosis and other bone conditions. 

The Geelong Osteoporosis Study, which has been running since 1993, is one of few studies in Australia that has continued to follow contemporary, population-based cohorts of young, middle, and older-aged men and women across a range of sociodemographic backgrounds.  

In a recent study completed by the Epi-Centre for Healthy Ageing at IMPACT, data from the GOS in partnership with Barwon Health were applied to a new diagnostic tool called the Peripheral Quantitative Computed Tomography (pQCT), which runs scans similar to a CT scan, but performed on the forearm and lower leg. The scan is used to identify people who lie outside the normal range of values and who may be at increased risk for fracture. 

‘Data from the Geelong Osteoporosis Study can provide information for clinicians about what are normal ranges of bone mass and structure and could be used to improve assessment for osteoporosis and other bone conditions, as well as provide information about a person’s risk of fragility fracture,” says recent PhD graduate Dr Kara Anderson who is part of the Epi-Centre for Healthy Ageing team at IMPACT. 

The findings were published in the Bone Reports journal, in a paper titled “Normative data for peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT) bone parameters in Australian men” which showed parameters of bone area were positively associated with age, whereas parameters associated with bone density and structure were negatively associated with age.  

pQCT Scan
Example of a pQCT Scan

The paper revealed the GOS data have the potential to be used in clinical settings when assessing age-related decline in bone health. 

‘The aim of the paper was to develop and report reference data for the pQCT, which can be used to identify people who lie outside the normal range of values and who may be at increased risk for fracture,’ says Dr Anderson, who was lead author of the paper. 

‘We found that a number of values that can be calculated from pQCT showed changes across the lifespan, which is promising for an evaluation of bone health, as we expect bone health to decline in older people. 

‘This study is the first to report reference data for this device in Australia, and one of few studies to report reference data for men, as men tend to be understudied in osteoporosis research. It gives us new and expanded understanding of bone health in men.’ 

Dr Anderson says these reference ranges will make it possible to move the pQCT device towards the clinic, where it can be used to assess patients bone health and make decisions about treatment for osteoporosis and fracture prevention. However, there is more to explore. 

‘This paper focussed on men and it’s going to be integral in future to replicate the findings in women, as bone health across the lifespan does differ between sexes,’ she says. 

‘It is also going to be useful to look at changes in these measures within individuals over time, rather than cross-sectionally, and to explore how these changes lead to fractures later in life.’ 

Dr Kara Anderson is a recent PhD graduate supervised by Dr Kara Holloway-Kew, Prof Julie Pasco, Assoc. Prof. Lana Williams, Prof Mark Kotowicz, Dr Natalie Hyde and Dr Pamela Rufus-Membere. Co-authors included Dr Monica Tembo and Dr Sophia Sui. Discover more about the Population Health theme here