Screening for osteoporosis in the adult U.S. population: ACPM position statement on preventive practice

Am J Prev Med. 2009 Apr;36(4):366-75. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.01.013.


Context: Osteoporosis is a common and costly disease that is associated with high morbidity and mortality. There is a lack of direct evidence supporting the benefits of bone mineral density (BMD) screening on osteoporosis outcomes. However, there is indirect evidence to support screening for osteoporosis given the availability of medications with good antifracture efficacy. This paper addresses the position of the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) on osteoporosis screening.

Evidence acquisition: The medical literature was reviewed for studies examining the benefits and harms of osteoporosis screening. An overview is also provided of available modalities for osteoporosis screening, risk-assessment tools, cost effectiveness, benefits and harms of screening, rationale for the study, and recommendations from leading health organizations and ACPM. A review was done of English language articles published prior to September 2008 that were retrieved via search on PubMed, from references from pertinent review or landmark articles, and from websites of leading health organizations.

Evidence synthesis: There were no randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of osteoporosis screening on fracture outcomes. However, there was one observational study that demonstrated reduced fracture incidence among recipients of BMD testing. Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry is currently one of the most widely accepted and utilized methods for assessing BMD. Other potential tests for detecting osteoporosis include quantitative ultrasound, quantitative computer tomography, and biochemical markers of bone turnover. Testing via BMD is a cost-effective method for detecting osteoporosis in both men and women. Osteoporosis risk-assessment tools such as the WHO fracture-risk algorithm are useful supplements to BMD assessments as they provide estimates of absolute fracture risks. They can also be used with or without BMD testing to assist healthcare providers and patients in making decisions regarding osteoporosis treatments.

Conclusions: All adult patients aged >or=50 years should be evaluated for risk factors for osteoporosis. Screening with BMD testing for osteoporosis is recommended in women aged >or=65 years and in men aged >or=70 years. Younger postmenopausal women and men aged 50-69 years should undergo screening if they have at least one major or two minor risk factors for osteoporosis. It is also recommended that clinicians consider using an osteoporosis risk-assessment tool to evaluate absolute fracture risk to determine appropriate osteoporosis therapies.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon / economics
  • Aged
  • Causality
  • Comorbidity
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / epidemiology
  • Fractures, Bone / prevention & control*
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / economics
  • Mass Screening / organization & administration
  • Mass Screening / standards*
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis / diagnosis
  • Osteoporosis / epidemiology
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control*
  • Risk Assessment
  • United States / epidemiology