Osteoporosis affects millions of people, both men and women, each year. It results from depletion of calcium in the bone, which causes the bone to be weaker, thinner, and more susceptible to fracture, particularly of the vertebrae, the wrists, and the hips. The patient may have no symptoms until there is a fracture of the bone.
The most effective test for diagnosing osteoporosis takes just ten minutes and is painless. Bone densitometry, available at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital's Women's Diagnostic Center, is a safe and non-invasive procedure which uses a minimal amount of radiation to accurately evaluate bone density. Men may also undergo this test to determine whether they have the disease.
Medical and Surgical Treatment for Osteoporosis
To prevent fractures, people with osteoporosis should avoid activities like heavy lifting and contact sports. However, staying active with approved weight-bearing activities, helps to keep bones strong. Medical treatment can often prevent further depletion. Medications, including bisphosphonates, calcium, and vitamin D, may actually improve bone density in patients with osteoporosis. Hormone replacement therapy or estrogen receptor modulators, which have some of the beneficial effects of hormone therapy, may also be used.
Patients with weakened bones are at a higher risk for compression fractures of the spine, in which vertebrae can collapse. These types of fractures can change a person's height and spinal alignment, and lead to chronic and severe pain, limited mobility, and even decreased lung capacity.
With a minimally invasive surgical procedure called vertebroplasty, those suffering from spinal fractures have a viable treatment option. This procedure, which can be performed under local or general anesthesia, reduces the time needed to treat the fracture and reduces that patient's discomfort. The entire process takes one to two hours for each vertebra and patients generally go home the same day. Restoring lost height is best accomplished when vertebroplasty is performed soon after fractures occur, generally within eight weeks. Not all patients with osteoporosis are candidates for the procedure.