Issues in aging

October 2010

Research

Bones beyond 70

Insights into osteoporosis management in the elderly

Volume 39, No.10, October 2010 Pages 767-772

Charles A Inderjeeth

Anabela Smeath

Background

Bone mineral density is presently the only reliable diagnostic test for osteoporosis.

Methods

Using quantitative questionnaires, general practitioners prospectively evaluated their own investigation and treatment of osteoporosis in patients aged more than 70 years.

Results

Data are available for 114 GPs; 2850 patients (cycle 1) and 1710 patients (cycle 2). Of the 25.4% with a prior fracture, bone mineral density had been assessed in 55.5% (cycle 1) and 67.0% (cycle 2; p<0.05). Among patients with no documented prior fracture, bone mineral density had been assessed in 39.4% (cycle 1) and 56.9% (cycle 2; p<0.05).

Discussion

Bone mineral density is subsidised for all patients aged more than 70 years, yet GPs are more likely to request bone mineral density tests only among those who already have a fracture. General practitioner education on the role of bone mineral density testing among all patients aged 70 years or more is important as it influences initiation of appropriate osteoporosis treatment.

Osteoporosis (OP) and its associated problems are major health concerns in Australia, especially with an aging population.1 Currently 2.2 million Australians have OP and this is expected to increase to 3 million by 2021.2 The loss of bone occurs progressively over many years and without apparent symptoms, and often the first sign of OP is a fracture. However, prevention is preferable as the risk of further fractures significantly increases once a minimal trauma fracture has occurred.3

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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