Osteoporosis experts are urging bone density testing more frequently for women at risk of developing osteoporosis.
A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that women with normal results on bone tests at ages 67 and older may wait up to 15 years for a second test. But experts, writing in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, said such a lengthy interval is inappropriate for many adults and women who are prone to developing osteoporosis should be tested more frequently.
Osteoporosis experts – including Drs. E. Michael Lewiecki, Andrew Laster, Paul Miller and John Bilezikian – said so-called DXA tests (short for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scans) are the best way to monitor bone mineral density and help patients prevent fractures.
But too few patients are being screened and more women need to be tested more frequently than 15 years, they said. Younger postmenopausal women at high risk for fracture are a particular concern because.
"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 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 said. The result is that osteoporosis can go undiagnosed and untreated, which may lead to debilitating fractures that are dangerous to patients and costly to treat.
More than 200 million people worldwide suffer from osteoporosis, including 10 million Americans, with two million related fractures occurring annually.