Study IDs Optimal Interval Between Bone Density Tests

Researchers provide evidence-based estimates for BMD screening in postmenopausal women

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- The recommended bone mineral density (BMD) screening interval is approximately 16 years for postmenopausal women with normal BMD, 4.5 years for women with moderate osteopenia, and one year for women with advanced osteopenia, according to a study published in the Jan. 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Margaret L. Gourlay, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues conducted a prospective study of 4,957 women age 67 and older to determine how the timing of BMD testing related to the development of osteoporosis before a hip or vertebral fracture occurred. The researchers analyzed how long it took 10 percent of the women with normal BMD, and subgroups with mild, moderate, and advanced osteopenia, to make the transition to osteoporosis, taking into account the use of treatments such as bisphosphonate, calcitonin, or raloxifene.

The investigators found that the recommended testing interval for postmenopausal women with normal BMD was an estimated 16.8 years. This compared to 17.3 years for women with mild osteopenia, 4.7 years for women with moderate osteopenia, and 1.1 years for those with advanced osteopenia. During the 15-year follow-up period, 10 of 1,255 women (0.8 percent) with a normal BMD baseline developed osteoporosis, compared to 64 of 1,386 women (4.6 percent) with mild osteopenia, 309 of 1,478 women (20.9 percent) with moderate osteopenia, and 841 of 1,351 women (62.3 percent) with advanced osteopenia.

"Our findings provide evidence-based estimates for an osteoporosis screening interval before new hip or clinical vertebral fractures and before initiation of treatment for osteoporosis," the authors write.

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