Osteoporosis Test Being Given Too Often

Many women who get a common osteoporosis screening test don’t need it. And many women who do need it don’t get it, according to researchers.

A study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that screening rates increased sharply among women at age 50, despite guidelines suggesting screening at age 65 unless risk factors are present. The presence of risk factors only had a modest influence on screening decisions.

As part of a University of California Davis research fellowship, physician Anna Lee Amarnath assessed the electronic health records of nearly 51,000 women who were between the ages of 40 and 85 and received health care in the Sacramento region. According a news release from the university, Amarnath’s evaluation included osteoporosis risk factors and whether or not the women received a screening technique called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), which measures bone mineral density.

Her finding: “DXA screening was underused in women at increased fracture risk, including women aged 65 years and older. Meanwhile, it was common among women at low fracture risk, such as younger women without osteoporosis risk factors,” Amarnath said.

The researchers said that might be because health care providers can be uncertain or doubtful about current screening recommendations. Doctors tend to think about age-related bone loss when women enter menopause around age 50, prompting a recommendation of DXA without also considering overall facture risk.


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