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Study Reports, Seniors Get too Many Bone Mineral Density Tests

Update Date: Sep 25, 2013 09:35 AM EDT

When people age, they need to start to address a slew of age-related diseases with their primary care physicians. Doctors can assess one's risks for the many health conditions that might arise, such as arthritis, dementia and hypertension. In a new study examining the risk of osteoporosis, researchers reported that the common recommendation of getting a bone mineral density (BMD) screening test every two years for seniors at risk might be too frequent. The researchers believe that the time between screenings could be longer.

"Although the appropriate time interval between BMD screening tests remains unknown, the current clinical practice of repeating a BMD test every 2 years to improve fracture risk stratification may not be necessary in all adults 75 years or older untreated for osteoporosis," concluded the researchers, led by Dr. Sarah Berry, a geriatric researcher at the Harvard-affiliated Hebrew SeniorLife Institute for Aging Research in Boston reported by CBS News.

For this study, the researchers examined the medical data on a group of adults with the average age of 75. The researchers looked at a total of 320 men and around 500 women who were all enrolled in a long-term osteoporosis study. That study recruited these adults from 1987 to 1999. The adults were undergoing BMD screening tests every four years. From this sample set, only 113 adults had one or more fractures.

The researchers discovered that there were no noticeable differences if the adults received a second BMD screening test four years later as opposed to two years later. If the seniors got the BMD screening test later, their risk of a fracture did not increase. The researchers believe that more studies need to be conducted in order to help find the optimal time for seniors to get screened so that both their risks of fractures and their medical costs would be reduced. Furthermore, the researchers acknowledged the fact that age was a limiting factor for them and thus, their findings are specified for adults aged 75 and above.

"Given the priority of reducing health care costs while improving quality of care, it is important to determine whether repeat BMD screening is useful," the researchers wrote.

The study was published in JAMA.

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