Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

50+: Live Better, Longer

Font Size

Little Benefit Seen in Repeat Bone-Density Testing

Older adults without osteoporosis could wait longer between screenings, study suggests

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Kathleen Doheny

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Sept. 24 (HealthDay News) -- For many seniors, it may not be worthwhile to undergo frequent imaging tests to see if they're at risk for broken bones, a new study suggests.

Repeating a bone-mineral-density test four years after the initial one did not provide substantially more information to predict fracture risk among older men and women who did not yet have osteoporosis, the study found.

"We found that the initial bone-density test did a good job of identifying individuals at risk for a fracture," said Dr. Sarah D. Berry, a research scientist at the Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew Senior Life and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

The bone-mineral-density DEXA test often is repeated every two years, Berry said, as Medicare part B will reimburse for it every two years, and more often if medically necessary. DEXA stands for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. People with lower bone density are at greater risk for breaking a bone.

The study, which included more than 800 men and women with an average age of 75, is published in the Sept. 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Berry's study was conducted to determine if testing at a four-year interval was excessive and could be skipped without harm, thereby saving health care dollars. Currently, about 22 percent of screened Medicare patients get a repeat test, on average about 2.2 years apart, according to background information included in the study.

Berry's team followed the participants for about 10 years, on average. They found that during that time, 113 people had one or more major fractures. When they looked to see if the results of the second test predicted fractures, they found that it provided little additional information.

"Of those who went on to experience a hip fracture, repeating a bone-density test improved our ability to classify a person at higher risk by about 4 percent," Berry said.

She said the message is not to ignore fracture risk, and that the study only speaks about the four-year interval, not beyond. "What our study suggests is that a doctor should routinely reassess risk," she said, but could probably do that without a repeat bone-density test very two years.

Today on WebMD

Eating for a longer, healthier life.
woman biking
How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
womans finger tied with string
Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
man reviewing building plans
Do you know how to stay healthy as you age?
fast healthy snack ideas
how healthy is your mouth
dog on couch
doctor holding syringe
champagne toast
Two women wearing white leotards back to back
Man feeding woman
two senior women laughing