Reports From the Field: Osteoporosis screenings urged

Women 65 and older should routinely be screened for osteoporosis to reduce the risk of fract0ure and spinal abnormalities associated with the disease, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended.

The task force, an independent panel of experts sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also called for routine screening to begin at age 60 for women who are identified as high risk because of their weight or estrogen use. It marks the first time that the panel has called for routine osteoporosis screening.

The task force found that dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), a noninvasive test, is the most accurate method for measuring bone density.

"Screening women at risk for osteoporosis can lead to early detection and treatment to prevent fractures. We recommend that clinicians discuss the potential benefits and risks of each treatment with their patients before deciding on a specific option," says Janet Allan, PhD, RN, vice chair of the task force.

The findings are reported in the Sept. 17 Annals of Internal Medicine (Screening for osteoporosis in postmenopausal woman: Recommendations and rationale. Ann Intern Med 2002; 137:526-528).