Researchers push ER osteoporosis test even for patients without fractures

Physiologists in Copenhagen, Denmark have recently released a report suggesting that bone density testing in emergency rooms (ERs) may be beneficial in diagnosing osteoporosis, even among fall sufferers without bone fractures.

According to a study published in the journal Advances in Orthopedics, the ER may be an effective arena for screening for bone loss in patients over the age of 50.

The International Osteoporosis Foundation reports that one in three women and one in five men over 50 years old will suffer from osteoporosis-related fractures.

However, the Danish research team said that even without a fracture or broken bone to speak of, mature patients admitted to an ER for injuries suffered in falls may still qualify for diagnostic bone tests based on a few simple physical hallmarks.

To determine which symptoms to look for, the team administered questionnaires to nearly 200 patients admitted to the hospital for falls. All participants were between the ages of 50 and 80, none had broken bones and all were hospitalized for low-energy falls, which were defined as a fall from standing height or less.

Researchers asked the patients about their body height reduction, eating and drinking habits, employment, history of fractures, drug and alcohol abuse as well as other lifestyle choices. Women were also asked about the number of children they had and their menopausal status.

Healthcare experts then administered a bone-density test called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), which uses two x-ray beams to determine the mineral content of bones.

The DXA is already considered an important tool in bone health evaluation. Women over the age of 65, as well as all individuals at risk for osteoporosis, should undergo a DXA scan, according to the U.S Preventive Services Task Force.

Researchers calculated that 85 percent of patients reported either a reduction in height or a family history of osteoporosis. DXA scans confirmed that patients reporting these risk factors were much more likely to be osteoporotic.

The team concluded that ER physicians should consider ordering a DXA for any fall sufferer over the age of 50, particularly those who report a decrease in height or a family history of osteoporosis.
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