Are Women Getting Enough Care For Bone Density Problems?

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The loss of bone density is one of the most pressing health problems affecting older women, both in Tennessee and throughout the United States. Women with osteoporosis or weak bones are much more likely to suffer broken bones.

When a fracture – especially one involving the hip bone – happens late in life, the results can be fatal. Women who suffer a hip fracture after age 50 are four times more likely to die within a year than women who do not. Those that survive will severe pain and life-long mobility limitations. Many require significant nursing home care as they recover from the injury.

Given these disturbing statistics, it comes as somewhat troubling news to learn that many doctors are not screening younger women for the early signs of bone loss.

In this age of expensive medicine, doctors are tasked with navigating the very thin line between preventing and detecting disease and not charging patients for care they do not need. There is also a risk that too much testing can lead to expensive and sometimes harmful overtreatment.

Bone loss can be easily detected with a screening called dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, also known as DXA. Most physicians’ groups recommend waiting until age 65 to start the tests, citing a fear of over-testing. However, this trend is starting to change. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, between 20 to 60 percent of internists and family practice doctors are performing DXA scans on younger patients. They say the added cost is worth it, given the ability to ward off the damaging effects of bone loss.

Tennessee Medical Malpractice Cases

The issue speaks to a much larger issue in modern medicine – when, exactly, should a physician be able to diagnose and treat a patient’s condition? Delayed or missed diagnoses can cause significant health problems. In fact, misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose are some of the most common causes of Tennessee medical malpracticelawsuits.

Patients should be sure to discuss these concerns with their physicians to determine the care plan that best meets their individual needs.

Source: The New York Times, “Many Bone Tests for Some, and Too Few for Others,” Roni Caryn Rabin, August 27, 2012.