Simple ultrasound exam may predict osteoporosis risk

June 24th, 2008 - 6:11 pm ICT by IANS  

London, June 24 (IANS) An ultrasound scan of the heel could predict if a woman is at heightened risk for fractures because of osteoporosis, according to a study. The radiation-free ultrasound may also be used to identify women who require further bone density testing, such as a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) exam.

“Osteoporosis is a major public health issue expected to increase in association with worldwide ageing of the population,” said the study’s co-author Idris Guessous, of Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland.

“The incidence of osteoporosis will outpace economic resources, and the development of strategies to better identify women who need to be tested is crucial.”

Osteoporosis is characterised by low bone mass and the deterioration of tissue. Eighty percent of those affected are women.

“Patients with osteoporosis are not optimally treated because of a lack of general awareness,” Guessous said. “A simple prediction rule might be a useful clinical tool for healthcare providers to optimise osteoporosis screening.”

In the three-year multi-centre study, 6,174 women age 70 to 85 with no previous formal diagnosis of osteoporosis were screened with heel-bone quantitative ultrasound, a diagnostic test used to assess bone density.

This test was used to calculate the stiffness index, which is an indicator of bone strength, at the heel. Researchers added in risk factors such as age, history of fractures or a recent fall to the results of the heel-bone ultrasound to develop a predictive rule to estimate the risk of fractures.

The results showed that heel bone quantitative ultrasound was not only effective at identifying high-risk patients who should receive further testing, but was also helpful in identifying patients for whom further testing can be avoided.

The findings of the study are slated for publication in the July issue of Radiology.

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