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The Advent of Bone Densitometry has Facilitated Early Detection of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes the bones in the body to gradually weaken, thus lowering their density. The disease derives its name from the words ‘osteo’ (bone) and ‘poros’ (porous in Greek). Weakened bones make patients vulnerable to falls, and may thus lead to fractures. This condition is characterized by frequent instances of fracture, even from the slightest injuries. After the age of thirty, bone mass is lost more quickly than it is created. The chances of developing osteoporosis are thus dependent on the volume of bone mass attained in youth – the higher the volume, the lesser the likelihood of developing the disease.

Every year, around 10 million people in the United States are reported to be diagnosed with osteoporosis. Several factors may put one at the risk of developing this condition – some of which may be manageable, and others, non-manageable. Factors such as a sedentary lifestyle and excessive consumption of alcohol can be controlled in order to prevent the occurrence of osteoporosis. However, age, sex, race, family history, hormonal imbalance, low calcium intake, corticosteroid medications, or certain medical ailments, such as celiac disease or lupus, are such factors that increase the chances of developing this condition.

Therefore, it becomes crucial to undergo tests to assess the presence of the disease, and bone densitometry is one such test developed for this purpose. In the past, the diagnosis of osteoporosis was made only after the patient injured their bone. However, it is now possible to make an accurate diagnosis by getting screened for the condition. Bone densitometry determines the mineral density in bones, thereby helping to predict the risk of an individual to develop a fracture in the future. Early diagnosis helps patients in seeking early treatment to manage their condition. Besides, a bone density scan helps in assessing the effectiveness of treatment for those already diagnosed with osteoporosis. An individual’s bone density predicts the risk of fracture, similarly as cholesterol predetermines the risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, bone mass measurement is the single-best prediction method for fracture risk.

In its report on the global bone densitometer market, Inkwood Research has estimated the industry to move towards an upward trajectory, with a CAGR of 3.95% during the forecast period, generating revenues worth $1375.5 million by 2027.

According to the WHO, those having a bone mineral density of 2.5 standard deviations or greater, below the average value defined for young, healthy women, can be said to be suffering from osteoporosis. Usually, the hip, the lumbar spine, and the forearm are scanned in the bone densitometry process. Bone density tests are carried out with the help of various technologies, such as dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and ultrasound, as well as other technologies for measuring bone density, which include dual X-ray absorptiometry and laser technique (DXL), quantitative computed tomography (QCT), and radiofrequency echographic multi spectrometry (REMS). In the past, the techniques used for assessing BMD in individuals were imprecise, and could not be used to accurately measure the changes in bone mineral density. However, advancements in the DXA technology have been a major pharmacological breakthrough. This technology has transitioned from the original pencil-beam densitometers to narrow fan-beam densitometers, having better resolution and faster scan times. Additionally, the evolution of the 3D-DXA has further enhanced the efficiency of these scans. Using 3D-DXA, a 3D model of a bone can be constructed using its 2D images. This provides a better understanding of bone status, geometry, thickness, and bone mineral density.

The world’s geriatric population is growing at a steadfast rate – in 2015, 8.5% of the worldwide population was aged 65 and above, which is expected to grow stronger with 17% by the year 2050. The body’s ability to function efficiently declines with age; and thus, the aged population is more prone to develop various health disorders, as compared to other age groups. Their low BMD and impaired healing ability lead to more chances of being diagnosed with bone disorders. Over 80% of the fractures in people above the age of fifty are caused by osteoporosis. The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) states that more than 8.9 million osteoporotic fractures occur annually across the globe, with over 1.6 million cases of hip fractures. Thus, several health initiatives are being launched to promote awareness regarding osteoporosis. This would help in fueling the adoption of bone densitometry techniques, and as well encourage patients to seek effective treatments at hand.

Summary:

The advent of bone densitometry has made far-reaching changes in the approach towards osteoporosis. With the increasing popularity and affordability of the technology, it would now be possible to screen a larger population at risk. With its increasing applications, bone densitometry has become an effective tool in aiding osteoporosis management, for both prevention and therapy.

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Author: S Jadhav

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