The Reliance GP Blog

Osteoporosis- the silent disease. Have you had your bone density scan yet?
Rod Beckwith May 26, 2016

Osteoporosis- the silent disease. Have you had your bone density scan yet?


Osteoporosis is a common disease that causes bones to become fragile and brittle. Osteoporosis causes bones to lose minerals such as calcium more quickly than the body can replace them, and consequently there is a reduction in bone strength and density. As the bone becomes thinner, even a small bump or minor fall may cause a serious fracture (called a fragility fracture). Therefore, osteoporosis leads to a  higher risk of fractures compared to normal healthy bone. Osteoporosis is often called the “silent disease” because there are usually no symptoms until a fracture occurs.

Did you know?

Approximately 4.74 million Australians over the age of 50 have osteoporosis or poor bone health, and around 150,000 fractures occur each year due to osteoporosis or osteopenia (low bone density).  In fact, an osteoporotic fracture occurs every 2.9 minutes, which means that a fracture has probably occurred during the time you have spent on our website.

Osteoporosis particularly affects women after menopause and in their later years, although men are also affected. One in three Australian women, and one in five Australian men will develop osteoporosis and be in danger of a fragility fracture. Worse, still, after a fracture, 1 in 2 people never regain full mobility and 1 in 4 have to move into a nursing home. Physical activity and a healthy, balanced  diet rich in calcium and vitamin D can help prevent osteoporosis.

DEXA scan-have you had yours?

Scanning of the axial skeleton by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) is the gold standard in Australia for the measurement of bone mineral density (BMD). DEXA is a diagnostic tool for osteoporosis or osteopenia, enabling doctors to determine the extent of bone loss, for clinical decision making.

Riverside Medical Imaging (the x-ray clinic located in Reliance GP Super Clinic) provides an accurate and convenient bone densitometry service for patients and doctors. Early detection of bone mineral loss can help prevent the occurrence of an initial fracture. For patients who may have already had a fracture, investigation with a DEXA scan and initiation of osteoporosis medication combined with a healthy diet and exercise regime is crucial to reduce the very high risk of subsequent fractures.

Reliance is committed to the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of and increasing awareness of osteoporosis.

DEXA scanning is the gold standard method for diagnosis of osteoporosis. A DEXA scan is accurate enough to detect less than a 1% change in a patient’s bone density. Our DEXA scanner has enhanced software, only available on the Central Coast in the Reliance GP Super Clinic, to not only measure how much bone there is, but also the quality of the bone, through a new and innovative software called ‘Trabecular Bone Score’ (TBS).”

Angus Steventon


Who should get a scan?

If you are over 70 years of age Medicare will pay for a DEXA Bone Density Scan every two years, with a referral from your GP.

There are many risk factors for osteoporosis. Therefore, you may like to have your bone mineral density (BMD) assessed if:

  • You are over 70 years of age
  • You consume inadequate amounts of dietary calcium
  • You have low vitamin D levels
  • You are a smoker cigarette smoking
  • Your alcohol intake exceeds more than two standard drinks per day
  • Your caffeine intake is more than three cups of tea, coffee or equivalent per day
  • You have poor physical activity levels
  • You experience early menopause (before the age of 45)
  • You have lost your menstrual period due to a reduction in oestrogen levels, which is vital for healthy bones
  • You have recently been placed on anti-depressants (especially SSRIs)
  • You have a long-term use of medications such as corticosteroids for rheumatoid arthritis, asthma or other conditions.

Some conditions place people at a higher risk of osteoporosis. Therefore it is advised patients with the following conditions have their bone mineral density assessed:

  • Thyroid disease or an overactive thyroid gland
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Chronic liver and kidney disease
  • Conditions that affect the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, such as Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease and other inflammatory bowel conditions

If you have any of the conditions immediately above, you may also be eligible for medicare bulk billing, for your bone density scan. In addition, every Australian man or woman over 70 years of age is eligible for medicare bulk billing. If a medicare rebate is not available to you, the cost of a scan is $87.50. Some private health funds do offer cover for bone density scans, so please check with your provider.

If you or any member of your family have any of these risk factors, you should speak to your Reliance GP about a referral for a bone density scan.

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