Osteoporosis would develop in fewer than 10% of older, postmenopausal women during rescreening intervals of about 15 years for those with normal bone density or mild osteopenia, 5 years for those with moderate osteopenia, and 1 year for those with advanced osteopenia, according to a study reported in The New England Journal of Medicine. Noting that there are few data to guide decisions about the interval between bone mineral density (BMD) tests, Gourlay and colleagues1 at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, studied 4957 women, aged 67 years and older, who had normal BMD or osteopenia and no history of hip or clinical vertebral fracture or of treatment for osteoporosis. The BMD testing interval was defined as the estimated time for 10% of women to make the transition to osteoporosis before having a hip or clinical vertebral fracture, with adjustment for estrogen use and clinical risk factors.
The estimated BMD testing interval was 16.8 years for women with normal BMD, 17.3 years for women with mild osteopenia, 4.7 years for women with moderate osteopenia, and 1.1 years for women with advanced osteopenia. The authors suggested that the baseline T score is the most important determinant of a BMD testing interval.
(Listen to an interview with the lead author of the study about how to judge appropriate intervals for bone density testing among women in your practice.)
1. Gourlay ML, Fine JP, Preisser JS, et al; Study of Osteoporotic Fractures Research Group. Bone-density testing interval and transition to osteoporosis in older women. N Engl J Med. 2012;366:225-233.