Assess your own bone health with new tool

21 June 2016

The launch of a new tool that allows people to self-assess their fracture risk could help the problem of undertreatment in osteoporosis, say endocrinologists.

The “Know Your Bones” online tool was launched by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Osteoporosis Australia this week.

The tool assesses bone fracture risk by taking into account age, gender, weight, history of fracture, bone mineral density, history of falls and lifestyle factors within the past 12 months.

For those over the age of 50, the risk of fracture is assessed over a 5 or 10 year period. Results are collated into a report that can be taken to a GP for further discussion.

Endocrinologist Professor Peter Ebeling, medical director of Osteoporosis Australia, says the tool is a useful supplement to the Garvan Fracture Risk Calculator, which is commonly used by GPs to assess fracture risk.

“It contains more clinical risk factors than the Garvan Fracture Risk Calculator but uses the same data to estimate fracture risk in a user-friendly way,” he says.

The tool empowers patients by allowing them to be aware of risk factors that they can already change to avoid their risk of developing osteoporosis, says Prof Ebeling.  

Professor Jacqueline Center, who heads the Bone Biology Division at the Garvan Institute, says the tool allows time-poor doctors to assess fracture risk more efficiently and better direct patients to appropriate treatment.  

Unlike other fracture risk tools, Know Your Bones takes into account co-existing conditions that can increase the risk of osteoporosis, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Steroids used to treat RA, as well as the disease itself, are major risk factors for osteoporosis and RA patients should consider getting a bone density scan to check for osteoporosis, says Prof Center, a practising endocrinologist.   

By considering these factors, the tool may help boost the low rate of treatment in osteoporosis, she adds.

“There is no doubt people are being undertreated. We know from lots of studies that less than 30% of women [with osteoporosis] are being treated and around 10% with a low trauma fracture are being treated,” says Prof Center.

Find the tool here.

Last Reviewed: 21 June 2016
Reproduced with kind permission from 6minutes.com.au.

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Rachel Worsley

Rachel Worsley

Rachel Worsley is a reporter with Medical Observer and the Specialist Updates sister publications. She has written for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Conversation, and was an executive producer on community radio station 2SER.