Osteoporosis experts urge bone density testing more frequently for women at risk

March 1, 2012

Although a recent study suggests that women with normal results on dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans at ages 67 and older may wait up to 15 years for a second test, a Viewpoint article published today in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research (JBMR) cautions that such a lengthy interval is inappropriate for many adults.

Viewpoints allow experts to provide a new perspective on research. In their article, osteoporosis experts Drs. E. Michael Lewiecki, Andrew Laster, Paul Miller and John Bilezikian write that monitoring bone mineral density by DXA should be done at intervals much shorter than 15 years for many individuals. These include younger at high risk for fracture, patients whose DXA scans indicate bone mineral density values substantially below normal, those with prior fracture or clinical risk factors for fracture, and patients already receiving therapy.

The article comments on research recently published in the (NEJM).

"Policy makers and patients who are concerned that over-use of medical tests may be driving up health care costs may be tempted to conclude that DXA scanning should be done less frequently," said Dr. Lewiecki. "In fact, just the opposite is true. Appropriate DXA screening reduces health care costs."

Many women, even those at risk for osteoporosis, never receive an initial DXA screening, the authors of the JBMR article note, with the result that osteoporosis often goes undiagnosed and untreated leading to debilitating fractures that are dangerous to patients and costly to treat. Over 200 million people worldwide suffer from osteoporosis, including 10 million Americans, with two million related fractures occurring annually and treatment costs exceeding $18 billion.

While the authors agree that a recommendation for extended intervals between bone mineral density tests is reasonable for women who fit the rather restricted profile in the NEJM study, physicians should not apply these recommendations to all postmenopausal women. testing by DXA is the international standard for assessing skeletal health, the authors note, citing research from both the Geisinger Health System Osteoporosis Disease Management Program and Kaiser Permanente of Southern California, which found that increases in testing reduced fracture rates and associated .

"The JBMR has a responsibility to address important scientific and clinical issues regarding bone disease," concluded Dr. Thomas L. Clemens Editor-in-Chief of the JBMR. "As Dr. Lewiecki and colleagues point out, there are important limitations and exceptions to a recommendation of very long intervals between DXA testing"

Explore further: New study highlights what works in osteoporosis treatment

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers discover rare flu-thwarting mutation

September 29, 2016

A rare and improbable mutation in a protein encoded by an influenza virus renders the virus defenseless against the body's immune system. This University of Rochester Medical Center discovery could provide a new strategy ...

Utah man may have contracted Zika from dying father's tears

September 29, 2016

A Utah man who mysteriously contracted Zika from his infected father may have got it by touching his dad's tears or sweat with his bare hands, according to new research unveiled Wednesday that found the unusual transmission ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.