Assessment of regional adipose tissue depots: A DXA and CT comparison in cadavers of elderly persons

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Since dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) cannot distinguish between different adipose tissue (AT) deposits, it remains unclear how DXA-derived body composition variables relate to anatomical tissue (sub)compartments. The aim of the present study was to compare and relate regional DXA variables with absolute tissue masses obtained by computer tomography (CT) scanning of the lower limbs in elderly persons.


Eleven well-preserved white Caucasian adults (seven male and four female cadavers) with a median age of 79.0 years (ranging from 68 to 96 years) were fully scanned with DXA and CT. Separate densities of skin tissue, AT, muscle tissue and bone were obtained by hydrostatic weighing.


The leg DXA-variables were significantly related (rho-values between 0.60 and 0.98, P < 0.01) to CT-derived tissue counterparts, but showed significant systematic differences except for subcutaneous AT mass (P = 0.773). After controlling for other AT depots, fat as measured by DXA (fatDXA) related only to intermuscular AT (rho = 0.82, P < 0.01) in males and to subcutaneous AT (rho = 0.84, P < 0.05) in females.


Although significantly interrelated, DXA and CT variables should not be used interchangeably since they have different quantitative and physiological significance. Our results suggest that fatDXA represents different parts of AT depots in elderly men and women. Since DXA is not appropriate for assessing tissue variability cautious clinical interpretation is warranted.

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