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Screening for Osteoporosis

The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are administered to people without current symptoms, but who may be at high risk for certain diseases or conditions.

Screening Tests

The main screening test for osteoporosis is called a bone mineral density test (BMD). This is a painless, noninvasive method of measuring your bone mass. A BMD test can detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs and can estimate your risk of having a fracture in the future.

With a BMD test, your bone mass is measured and then compared to that of either (1) a healthy 30-year-old adult (T-score) or (2) the expected bone mass of someone your age (Z-score). Because low BMD is common among older adults, comparison to peers your age can be misleading. The results of a BMD test will indicate whether you have normal bone density, low bone density (called osteopenia), or full-blown osteoporosis.

There are several types of BMD tests that are used to screen for or diagnose osteoporosis.

Screening Guidelines

Currently there is no consensus within the medical community regarding BMD screening tests. The decision whether to screen is usually made on an individual basis based on your risk factors. The National Osteoporosis Foundation suggests the following for initial screening:

  • All women age 65 and older and men age 70 and older, regardless of risk factors
  • Postmenopausal women and men aged 50-69 with one or more risk factors for osteoporosis
  • Any adult age 50 years and older with a fracture
  • Any adult with a health condition or taking a medication associated with low bone mass or bone loss
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References:

Clinician's guide to prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. National Osteoporosis Foundation website. Available at: https://my.nof.org/bone-soruce/education/clinicians-guide-to-the-prevention-and-treatment-of-osteoporosis. Accessed May 19, 2016.
Osteoporosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113815/Osteoporosis. Updated June 9, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.
5/16/2008 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113815/Osteoporosis: Qaseem A, Snow V, Shekelle P. Screening for osteoporosis in men: a clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2008;148(9):680-684.
4/21/2015 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113815/Osteoporosis: Altkorn D, Cifu AS. Screening for osteoporosis. JAMA. 2015;313(14):1467-1468.
Last reviewed May 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 5/20/2015

 

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