Study reveals postmenopausal women with good bone density do not need repeat tests

November 25, 2014

Topic: fragility fractures

Women who do not need to be screened for osteoporosis are and women who should be screened for the condition are being overlooked.

Researchers from the Women's Health Initiative found that women who have gone through menopause and are younger than 65 do not need their bone density tested again. Women who have a healthy bone density are at a lower risk of a fragility fracture. The findings were published online in Menopause, which is the journal of The North American Menopause Society.

The study authors used 4,068 women who had gone through menopause and were between the ages of 50 and 64. At some point, all the women had already been given a bone mass density test. None of the participants took vitamin D or calcium supplements, and none had sustained an osteoporotic fracture.

Osteoporosis vs. low bone density
The National Osteoporosis Foundation stated that osteoporosis is when people either lose a significant amount of bone or cannot rebuild bone. Without this regeneration, the bones become brittle and weak. They might break from a fall or something as minor as a sneeze. People can have low bone density and not have osteoporosis. It also does not mean they are actively losing bone, like patients with osteoporosis do. However, they are more likely to break a bone or develop osteoporosis. Older adults are more likely to have lower bone density.

Among the participants, it took approximately 12.8 years for the youngest women and 7.6 years for the oldest women to sustain a vertebral fracture or a hip fracture. It took 11.5 years to 8.6 years for 3 percent of the group to get a major osteoporotic fracture such as a vertebral fracture or a wrist, arm or hip fracture.

Women who began the study with osteoporosis were at a high risk for a fracture, with 1 percent developing a hip fracture or vertebral fracture within three years of the study and 3 percent sustaining a major osteoporotic fracture in 2.5 years.

Inconsistent testing
Physicians decide how often women need a BMD test depending on their risk of fracture. However, there is controversy surrounding how to judge that risk. Tests before the age of 65 are not recommended unless the woman has a condition that is associated with bone loss. The bone loss risks that cause repeat testing are unclear and inconsistent among clinicians.

However, the study authors concluded that women who do not show signs of osteoporosis after menopause will not need more BMD tests until 10 to 15 years have transpired, unless there is a change in their health.

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