Physician Treatment of Osteoporosis in Response to Heel Ultrasound Bone Mineral Density Reports

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2002

Publication Title

Journal of Clinical Densitometry, Volume 5, issue 4 (Winter, 2002), p. 375-381


Optimal information that should be included in ultrasound (US) heel bone mineral density (BMD) reports is not known. If additional information about further evaluation of patients with low heel BMD were included in reports, would responses for treatment improve? We screened people at health fairs using the Sahara heel US machine. For those with a T-score of ≤–1.0, letters were sent to their primary care physician notifying them of the result. Physicians were randomly assigned to (1) a standard letter, which recommended central bone density screening (dual X-ray absorptiometry [DXA]) and treatment if the BMD was low; or (2) an extended letter, which also outlined treatment strategies based on recommended subsequent central DXA scan results for a T-score of <–1.50 and also if <–2.00. The extended letter only increased the frequency of DXA testing from 30.1 to 37.2% (not a significant increase). Of 88 people with heel BMD ≤–1.00 and not previously on any treatment, 25 of 45 (56%) were treated (calcium, estrogens, bisphosphonates, or calcitonin or a combination) after physicians received a standard letter and 30 of 43 (70%) after an extended letter (one-sided p = 0.084). Of people with T ≤ –1.9, and initially taking nothing more than calcium, 5 of 36 (13.9%) received additional treatment after physicians received a standard letter vs 9 of 41 (22.0%) after an extended letter (one-sided p = 0.180). For those with T ≤ –1.0 because of the screen 25 of 197 (12.7%) received additional treatment. One hundred forty-six of 194 (75%) individuals and received treatment with calcium or other medications, and 74 of 173 (43%) of individuals before screening and 141 of 195 (72%) after physicians received letters took calcium. Physicians regarded calcium alone as adequate treatment in many cases. There was no marked increase in treatment when additional information was provided to physicians regarding evaluation and treatment for low US heel BMD results.

Original Citation

Boyd, J., Holcomb, J., and Rothenberg R., (2002). Physician treatment of osteoporosis in response to heel ultrasound bone mineral density reports, Journal of Clinical Densitometry, 5(4), 375-381.