Dr Amit Chakraborty, Jan 2023
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition where the mineral content of the bone falls below a critical level. As a result, our bones become structurally unsound and may break under normal load.
Whilst this disease is predominantly of the elderly, various metabolic conditions can predispose young individuals to this condition as well.
How is osteoporosis diagnosed?
There is no reliable way to diagnose osteoporosis other than through a DEXA scan. DEXA stands for ‘Dual Energy Xray Absorptiometry’. A DEXA machine passes a very low dose x-ray through the body. Different body tissues absorb this radiation at different rates. By measuring the rate of absorption of x-ray by the bones, the machine is able to accurately determine the level of mineralisation of the bone.
What causes osteoporosis?
Our body has a delicate system for maintaining the various mineral balances inside our system. Critical minerals include calcium, sodium, potassium, and phosphate, to name a few. Calcium is a critical component for the integrity of our bones. With age and certain metabolic conditions, our ability to absorb and store calcium in our bones is reduced. With time, our calcium stock starts to deplete. It is calcium phosphate that gives bones their structural rigidity. When the calcium stock is reduced below a critical level, this compromises the structural integrity of the bones and they become vulnerable to fracture under minimum load.
Bones that are osteoporotic do not heal well. Joint replacements do not work with osteoporotic bones. These bones are simply not strong enough to hold the prosthetic components.
The prolonged recovery time often means prolonged immobilisation or loss of function. This predisposes to various complications such as blood clots in veins. If an operation has been performed to fix the fracture, post-operative complications can also be a significant concern. These may include wound infection, bleeding, pneumonia, and various other conditions which can be fatal.
Individuals over the age of 70 years are able to claim Medicaid rebate for DEXA scans performed once every two years. If there are reasons for concern, individuals below this threshold may also be eligible.
Even if you are not symptomatic, a DEXA scan at your local Ingleburn radiology clinic, can provide critical insight into your bone mineral density and may prompt your doctor to commence preventative measures to reduce bone loss.
Please talk to your GP about bone mineral density and ways you can prevent excessive loss of bone mass.