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Using ultrasound to determine the bone density of a person's heel can predict his risk of breaking a hip or other bones, according to new research.


Researchers measured heel bone density by ultrasound in 6,485 men and 8,339 women between ages 42 and 82 years. During almost 2 years of follow-up, researchers recorded 121 fractures requiring hospital admissions. Thirty-one of these fractures were broken hips.


People whose ultrasounds indicated a lower bone density were more likely to be among those who had a fracture during the follow-up period. Heel ultrasound's predictive value held true regardless of age, sex, height, weight, smoking history, and history of previous fractures. Based on their findings, researchers say that heel ultrasound measurements are "strong predictors of hip and total fracture risk in men and women" and challenge health care professionals to develop interventions to improve bone health in the population.




"Prediction of Total and Hip Fracture Risk in Men and Women by Quantitative Ultrasound of the Calcaneus: EPIC-Norfolk Prospective Population Study," The Lancet, K. Khaw, et al., January 17, 2004.