People get tested for osteoporosis when institutes have dedicated bone health clinicians

Getting tested for osteoporosis is not always as simple as going to a doctor and asking for a bone mass density scan, which is one reason why researchers from Toronto analyzed the effects that stem from a fracture clinic's having a dedicated bone health technician.

The team, which hails from St. Michael's Hospital, determined that people are much more likely to get screened for bone loss when such an institute employs an osteoporosis expert.

Researchers looked at public health records from 11 countries, in each case analyzing patient data for fracture clinic attendance, receipt of bone mass density scan and testing for osteoporosis. The results appeared in a recent issue of the journal Osteoporosis International.

The team found people with fractures were much more likely to get tested for progressive bone loss at clinics that employed experts dedicated to osteoporosis diagnosis and treatment. This likelihood rose even further when clinics had bone mass density scanning technology on the premises.

Lead author Joanna Sale emphasized that, even though the meta-study ran into some data-comparison problems, its overall message is clear.

"A fracture clinic is a very busy place. Patients are in pain. You have orthopedic surgeons, residents, physiotherapists [and] orthopedic technicians. It makes sense to have someone who can identify patients who might have osteoporosis, educate them, refer them for a bone mineral density test, schedule them for the test and write a prescription," she wrote.

The study noted that approximately 2 million Canadians suffer from osteoporosis. In the U.S., that figure is significantly higher.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), 10 million Americans are living with the disease and another 34 million are at risk for it because of low bone density.

What can people do about bone loss? Besides taking vitamin supplements, eating a healthy diet and avoiding tobacco and alcohol, they may proactively pursue regular bone density tests.

Aging individuals who suffer a fracture should immediately seek medical attention and get tested for osteoporosis, the NOF states, adding that such bone-loss-related injuries cost the U.S. an estimated $19 billion in total public healthcare costs each year.