Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Detecting Osteoporosis Through Plain X-Rays

Now if this works...it will be GREAT! An article in the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology, describes the development of a computerized digitization technique whereby X-rays can be evaluated for osteoporosis. This new technique, by the Central Scientific Instruments Organization in India, requires only the addition of a reference index to an X-ray image and can be used in existing health care facilities without the addition of expensive equipment.

Currently, the only method for assessing bone mineral density is through dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). This procedure provides important information about bone density but insurance reimbursement requires special approval. If an individual has one or more risk factors for osteoporosis, a DXA scan will likely be paid for. But if he or she has not sustained a fragility fracture, or are not postmenopausal, but they ARE one of the 37% of individuals out there with NO risk factors for osteoporosis AND unknowingly HAVE osteoporosis...then they are out of luck! His or her low bone density will just continue to get worse and worse until its "silence" is shattered by a catastrophic fracture.

What if that individual's low bone density had been detected early on as a secondary finding during routine X-ray evaluations during their 30s and 40s? Identifying low bone density early, BEFORE it becomes critical gives that individual valuable time. Early detection is one of the most important ingredients when working with bone loss. It is easier to prevent further bone loss than to regain it.

This technique has great potential (if applied properly) to help in the prevention of osteoporotic fractures. Let's hope it is brought to market and is a success.

Kumar, N, et al. 2012. International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology 9:316-324.
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