The Reproducibility of Ultrasound Bone Measures in a Triethnic Population of Pregnant Adolescents and Adult Women

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We used bone ultrasound technology with its measurement of attenuation (broadband ultrasound attenuation [BUA] as dB/MHz) and sound velocity (speed of sound as m/s) for assessing the quantitative ultrasound index (QUI) summary measure in a triethnic population of 280 pregnant women. The study purpose was to describe the reproducibility of the ultrasound technology and determine if the correlations of age, weight, and ethnicity with the bone status measures in this population are consistent with the correlations of age, weight, and ethnicity that have been reported with other technologies that measure bone mass. We evaluated the first 280 women enrolled in our longitudinal study of lead turnover from maternal bone during pregnancy and lactation. Enrollees were pregnant, aged 12-29 years, and self-classified as black, white, or Hispanic. Bone ultrasound was measured twice at entry to prenatal care, which, on average, was at 14 weeks gestation. Reproducibility was described with intraclass correlations and the standard error of measurement. Age, weight, and ethnicity were associated with bone status measures using Spearman correlations and generalized linear models. The reproducibility of the summary bone measure, QUI, was high (96-97%). Variation in age and ethnicity did not alter reproducibility; however, the reproducibility of the attenuation measure (BUA as dB/MHz) lessened with increasing weight, declining from 95% to 89%. Since this attenuation is included in the summary QUI measure, there was a slight, and nonsignificant, decline in QUI reproducibility (from 97% to 96%) as women increased in size. There were no statistically significant differences in mean bone ultrasound measures according to age, where ages ranged from 12-29 years. Women who categorized themselves as black had, on average, an 8.5% greater QUI than did women who classified themselves as Hispanic or white. There were no significant pair-wise differences in mean ultrasound measures of bone between women classifying themselves as Hispanic or white. The use of ultrasound is a highly reproducible measure to assess bone characteristics in a population of pregnant adolescent and young adult women and its summary measure of bone mass is correlated with ethnic as well as body size characteristics.

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