Osteoporosis and DEXA Scans
Many individuals who come to our practice for treatment are found to be suffering from either osteoporosis or osteopenia.
Osteoporosis is a disorder in which the bones increasingly become brittle, porous, and subject to fracture. It is caused by a loss of calcium or other important mineral components, and often results in pain, lessening of height, and skeletal deformities.
Osteopenia is a general reduction in bone mass. It is less severe than osteoporosis, and is caused by the disappearance of bone tissue at a rate that exceeds formation.
When we become aware of certain risk factors in a patient, we attempt to look further into his or her current situation. Risk factors for osteoporosis and osteopenia include:
- Ethnicity – Caucasian and Asian women are at the highest level of risk.
- Low Body Weight
- Lifestyle – Cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, improper eating habits, and an inactive lifestyle are all lifestyle factors which put a person at greater risk.
- Menstrual History – Individuals who began menstruating at age 15 or older are at a greater risk.
- Diet and Nutrition – Individuals who consume too much protein or caffeine, and who eat less than five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, are at greater risk.
- Family History – of osteoporosis, hip fracture, or fragility fracture.
Determining the Risk: What is Your T-Score?
The T-score is an indication of the quality of your bone mass, and can indicate your risk for fracture. Specifically, it is a comparison of the patient's bone mineral density to that of a healthy thirty-year-old of the same sex and ethnicity. This value is used for women who are post-menopausal, and men who are over age fifty. Patients with a T-score between -1.0 and -2.5 are normally diagnosed with osteopenia. Patients with a T-score which is lower than -2.5 are normally diagnosed with osteoporosis.
How is it Determined?
To determine a patient's T-score, we perform a DEXA scan. DEXA is an acronym for Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry. DEXA scans are performed in our office, and we recommend that all women over age sixty allow us to perform one. DEXA scans are more accurate than x-rays, require less radiation exposure than CT scans, and are less costly than most other related tests. Medicare will cover an initial DEXA scan, along with a repeat scan once every 24 months. If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis and placed on medication for it, Medicare will cover a repeat scan after one year.