An estimated 25 million American women either have or are at-risk for getting osteoporosis. Many people don’t even know they have the disease. Now, a lightweight, easy-to-use test helps doctors identify more people with osteoporosis.
Irene Golden enjoys walking with her daughter, even though she’s had osteoporosis for nearly 20 years. “I didn’t know it until I was 63 years of age, and that’s when it hit me,” she says. “I had about six fractures.”
Irene’s first clue that her bones were getting thin and weak was a fracture. Back then, people were rarely tested for osteoporosis. Today, doctors use large x-ray machines to measure the strength or density of a person’s bones.
Dr. Susan Greenspan says the large device has its limitations. “Because of the expense, the radiation, the space it takes up, it is not universally accessible or even accessible all over the United States,” says Dr. Greenspan, an endocrinologist and gerontologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Mass.
Now there’s a portable, less expensive ultrasound machine that measures a person’s heel bone. “Literally in a matter of about a minute to two minutes, she will have an assessment of her heel ultrasound, which also is related to her risk of an eventual fracture of either her hip or spine,” says Dr. Greenspan.
Dr. Greenspan says the ultrasound machine will allow for more convenient screenings. There is no cure for osteoporosis, but Irene hopes a good diet, regular exercise and new medications will reduce her risk for another fracture.
The company who makes the ultrasound device hopes more doctors and obstetricians will use it in their offices to screen patients. They recommend the larger, more traditional x-ray machine for following patients like Irene Golden over time.
Source: Ivanhoe 1999