Lately, there have been concerns raised about the overuse of screening procedures, including bone densitometry. (Newsweek, Aug 14, 2011). While there may be many screening tests that are expensive and overused, bone density testing (DXA) is quite the opposite. It is relatively inexpensive AND underutilized.
Osteoporosis is a seriously underdiagnosed and undertreated disease resulting in 2 billion fractures a year. What’s more, 70% of the people who have osteoporosis have never been screened. So what do we do?
Who should be tested?
Every woman over age 65 should get a DXA. It’s a benefit covered by Medicare with no co-pay as part of their preventive services package. All men over age 70 should also get a DXA.
Now, for those people under age 65, guidelines indicate that a DXA should be performed if any one of many clinical risk factors for osteoporosis is present. The most common risk factors are 1) having a family history of osteoporosis or fracture and 2) having had a fragility fracture after age 45 (defined as breaking a bone in a fall from a standing height.)
A number of other medical conditions warrant a DXA, particularly those that require treatment with a steroid medication like prednisone. Some of the most common conditions are rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, autoimmune diseases like lupus or MS, some skin conditions and some kinds of cancer. These steroids help reduce inflammation, but also weaken bones.
To learn more about other factors that may increase your risk of osteoporosis and fractures, take our ABH Fracture Risk Calculator™. Print the results and take them with you to your next doctor appointment.
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