Today's News

Friday, March 17, 2000

AAOS offers bone mineral density testing

They want to know how dense you are.

It's not a test of how difficult it is for you to understand something. It's a test to determine the density of your bones.

Participants have been slipping out of their shoes and putting their heels to the test in a Hologic scanner that measures the density of bone in their heels.

Ultrasound waves are passed through the heel and, in less than a minute, participants can get an idea of whether or not their bones are dense enough to withstand a fall.

Bone mineral density testing will be at room 110A from 8:30 a.m. to noon Friday.

"Of course this is just a screening tool," said William McLeod, MD, who is volunteering his time to discuss the results with those who come for the test. "If this indicates a problem, we suggest a diagnostic screening using the Dexascan, which is the gold standard of diagnostic tools."

The diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis has advanced rapidly in the past five years. While the disease has always existed, Dr. McLeod said, until recently little could be done to predict its onset and even less could be done to treat it once it was discovered.

"Now, we have four treatments that we regularly use that are effective," he said. "Estrogen has always been used, but that has some risks of cancer. Now there is also Evista, an estrogen-like substance; Fosamox, a pill that many don't like because it is not easily absorbed by the body; and Miacalcin, a nasal spray."

While the Hologic is just a screening tool, quite a few women were stopping by the exhibit to get a better view of their bone density.

Bone mineral density training will be conducted at room 100A from 8:30 a.m. to noon Friday.

"I think that it's a great idea that we have this opportunity," said Laura Hauge, who came to the convention with her husband, an exhibitor. "I thought I was at low risk, but the test showed me as borderline, so I'm going to check with my doctor when I get back home. It may be nothing, but I don't want to take a chance," the 42-year-old woman said. "I'm still young, but I want to make changes if I need to."

The best way to make sure your bones are strong is to do weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, and to make sure you get at least 1,000 mg of calcium in your daily diet.

"Every time you do weight-bearing exercises it deforms (slightly bends) the bone, and when that happens, your body forms another layer of bone to ensure that bends don't become breaks," said David Cassidy, a technician who is administering the tests.

"I exercise a lot, but that doesn't mean I'm not at risk," said Xian Wu, who works in an orthopaedic office. "My test results are OK, but I want to be sure. I got some information about how I can improve my odds."

Anita Gonzalez, 15, who is at the convention with her parents, didn't take the test. Her bones won't be completely formed for awhile. Still, she has to make sure she gets plenty of calcium while her bones are forming so they will grow strong.

"They told me that I should drink milk or eat stuff that has a lot of calcium in it because I'm still growing," she said. "And, I should start taking a calcium supplement now. I didn't think I needed to do that until I got to be my mother's age."

Mary Smith said she's been taking supplements for 30 years and, at nearly 50, she's testing as well.

"I guess I should keep taking the supplements and getting my exercise," she said. "Whatever I'm doing is right, I guess."

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Last modified 17/March/2000 by IS