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Special report: Densitometry

by Nancy Ryerson, Staff Writer | August 30, 2013
From the July 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

“I would say that’s probably going to continue to expand and get more into colleges, and more into health spas and gyms and those kinds of institutions,” says Kelly.

GE and Hologic, the two leaders in the bone densitometer market, have both released software updates to correspond with the newfound interest in body comp studies.

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GE’s software release, Encore Version 14, includes measurement capability for visceral fat. Its upcoming Version 15 release will add simplified reporting structures and simplified options, Kelly says.

In 2011, Hologic incorporated National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey whole body reference data into its Discovery line of DXA systems for use with body composition studies.

This July, Hologic announced its newest release, its first top-down update of its bone densitometers since 2002. It’s called Horizon and includes an extremely low noise detector, ideal for scanning obese patients.

“Horizon yields better image quality on obese patients, whether for body composition or typical bone density evaluations,” says John Jenkins, vice president of marketing at Hologic. He says the majority of customers he hears from are interested in providing body composition studies at their centers.

Body comp bull’s eye
Parker of the Washington Institute has been involved in body composition studies since the 1970s. He’s watched curious patients take the plunge in hydratic weighing around 10,000 times, and helped invent the original Bod Pod.

He says while those methods can be useful, factors like how much air is in your lungs can skew results. The Washington Institute of Sports Medicine introduced DXA body composition scans two years ago, and the center is now the largest in the area.

Body comp DXA scans today are often considered the “gold standard” for accuracy, though adjustments and calculations still need to be made after the scan.

“I’ve heard people say the only way to be more accurate than a DXA is to wait until the person dies to chop up the body and weigh the pieces,” says Dr. Dan Stickler, founder of Synchronicity Wellness in Asheville, N.C., a center that has been using DXA body comp scans as the basis for its health plans since 2005. He says software updates over the years have made the scans increasingly accurate.

“When I look at someone, I can generally tell what their body comp is going to be,” says Stickler, who was a bariatric surgeon before becoming interested in alternative weight loss programs. “DXA matches what I know, while the other methods usually don’t.”

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