What is the role of tetracycline double labeling in the workup of osteoporosis?

Updated: Jan 20, 2021
  • Author: Rachel Elizabeth Whitaker Elam, MD, MSc; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Tetracycline double labeling is a process used to calculate data on bone turnover. In this procedure, patients are given tetracycline, which binds to newly formed bone. This appears on biopsy samples as linear fluorescence. A second dose of tetracycline is given 11-14 days after the first dose; this appears on a biopsy sample as a second line of fluorescence. The distance between the two fluorescent labels can be measured to calculate the amount of bone formed during that interval, which may potentially indicate that too little bone formation or too much bone resorption is the cause of osteoporosis in a patient. Tetracycline labeling may also help clinicians to test potential therapy (ie, did the treatment slow bone resorption, increase bone formation, or both?) and study other metabolic bone responses.

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