A closer examination of the common chest X-ray could reveal osteoporosis in older patients not previously diagnosed with the brittle bone disease, according to a study published on Monday.
Canadian researchers said they reached that conclusion after checking hundreds of chest X-rays for fractures of the vertebrae, the most common bone break associated with osteoporosis but one that doctors notice in only about a third of cases.
“The most noteworthy finding in our study is the magnitude of the underdiagnosis and undertreatment of osteoporosis in elderly patients with a vertebral fracture,” said the report from the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton.
Though one in six elderly patients who had chest X-rays done at the hospital’s emergency department had “clinically important vertebral fractures,” only about 60 percent of these fractures were noted in the patient’s file and only 25 percent of those with fractures were diagnosed with or treated for osteoporosis, the study said.
The report was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bones caused when the bone-building process becomes unbalanced and bone is reabsorbed by the body more quickly than it is replaced.
It usually accompanies aging and occurs four times more frequently in women because of their loss of estrogen after menopause. Calcium, Vitamin D, exercise and some medications can combat the disease.
The researchers said previous studies show that as many as 25 percent of people aged 50 to 60 have one or more osteoporosis-related vertebral fractures.
Only about 30 percent of those fractures come to medical attention while the other 70 percent go on to cause illness, death, decreased quality of life and increased risk of future fractures, they said.