In a study that could lead to widespread use of inexpensive ultrasound screenings for osteoporosis; researchers found data from ultrasonography of the calcaneus (heel bone) was equal to data gathered using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), which is the gold standard for assessing bone health. The findings could lead to lower costs and increased screening for populations at-risk for bone diseases; which study authors say extends well beyond postmenopausal women.
“Prior research demonstrated strong correlations between education level and socioeconomic status and bone quality Because of its low-cost, mobility and safety, ultrasound is a promising tool for assessing more people; across multiple demographics.” Researchers say DXA scans remain the best option for thorough; comprehensive information on a patient’s bone health.
Immobile and exposes patients
However, the equipment is expensive, immobile and exposes patients to ionizing radiation. Those limitations create barriers to screening larger populations. “Using ultrasound to scan the heel won’t give us all the information we could gather with a full DXA scan,” says Carolyn Komar, Ph.D. “However, it gives us a clear enough snapshot to know whether we should be concerned for the patient.”
Bone mineral density (BMD) is the quality measured to determine bone health. Nutrition, lifestyle, environment; physical activity, and genetics all contribute to BMD. Peak BMD is by mid- to late-20s. BMD decreases naturally with age, which means people who do not establish sufficiently strong bones as young adults are at increased risk for diseases like osteoporosis later in life.
Nutrition and exercise
Dr. Nazar says the most effective lifestyle interventions for young adults are nutrition and exercise. A healthy, balanced diet contributes significantly to bone health. Also, weight-bearing exercises not only build muscle; which protects bone but also strengthens the bone itself. “Most people think our bones are static structures once they reach adulthood. On the contrary, they are dynamic and shaped by how we live.
The current study validated the use of the US as a screening tool to assess bone health. The findings from this study also determined that measuring the circulating concentration of vitamin D did not improve the predictability of US to identify individuals at risk for having low BMD.
A lack of association between BMD and circulating concentrations of vitamin D as seen in this study is not unique. There are reports of an absence of the association between BMD, as determined by DXA scan, and vitamin D levels in children, adults with primary hyperparathyroidism, obese adults, and Middle Eastern adults.