Bone Density Testing
As we age, our bones become more fragile. It becomes easier and easier to break a bone as we age, and the older we are, the worse the consequences of fractures. For example, hip fractures are common as we age, the the consequences of hip fracture can be devastating. The good news is that we now have ways to identify patients at risk for bone fractures and reduce that risk of fracture with medication.
Osteoporosis is the medical name that we give to the condition of bone weakness. It occurs more often in women, but can also occur in men. There are a variety of risk factors for osteoporosis, but the three most important ones are (1) a low body weight, (2) no estrogen therapy and (3) lack of exercise. The most important risk factor is low body weight. Using these three factors, we can determine the risk of a woman having osteoporosis, and the potential need for treating it.
But there is a more accurate way of screening for osteoporosis, call "Bone Density Measurement". This technique uses xrays to measure the amount of calcium in the bones and will give a score that will aid in determining if a patient will need therapy.
1. US Preventive Services Task Force, Screening for Osteoporosis in Postmenopausal Women: Recommendations and Rationale, Ann Intern Med 2002;137:526.