UConn Center for Osteoporosis

The UConn Center for Osteoporosis provides state-of-the-art testing and treatment for men and women with risk factors for this progressive and debilitating yet often silent condition. Our experts use "gold standard" evaluation tools like the Dual Energy X-ray Absorption (DXA) to accurately measure bone density and vertebral fracture analysis to look for deformities of the spine. Individualized treatment plans are devised for each patient to best fit their health and wellness needs. Because we are an academic medical center, our physicians are involved in world-class research on the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis.

Bone Density Testing

Bone Density TestBone density testing is critical for the early diagnosis of osteoporosis and osteopenia, conditions of diminished bone tissue. At the UConn Center for Osteoporosis, we use a radiological test called a DXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorption), the “gold standard” for bone density testing. It is an outpatient test that is not painful. The text can calculate the density of bone and creates a chart that compares that patient's density to what the density should be. Density is the amount of calcium found in the bone. The higher the density the stronger the bone is. We can also perform vertebral fracture analysis to look for spine deformities.

Because we are a university hospital, our physicians are involved in research on the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. We maintain “research quality” testing standards to ensure our patients receive the most accurate test results possible.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a progressive condition in which bone mass and strength is lost, thereby weakening the bones and making them more susceptible to fractures. Some loss of bone is a normal part of the aging process. But for people with osteoporosis, bone loss is excessive and results in an increased risk of bone fractures often following little or no injury. These fractures, usually of the hip, spine and wrist, can cause pain, deformity and disability , however fractures of the spine may cause height loss without any acute symptoms.

Forty percent of American women over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime. In men, the risk for osteoporotic fractures increases dramatically as they age into their 70s and 80s.

What are the risk factors associated with osteoporosis?

  • Body weight less than 127 pounds
  • Current smoker
  • History of fracture after age 40
  • First-degree relative with history of osteoporosis or fracture
  • Caucasian or Asian descent
  • Advanced age
  • Early menopause or estrogen deficiency in women
  • Low testosterone or use of hormonal suppression therapy for prostate cancer in men or breast cancer in women
  • Low intake of calcium, past or present
  • Chronic use of steroids, anticonvulsant or excessive thyroid hormone
  • Chronic gastrointestinal or kidney disorders
  • Sedentary lifestyle/lack of exercise
  • Excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption

Who should have an evaluation for osteoporosis?

An evaluation for osteoporosis is beneficial for anyone with risk factors. Since women are four times more likely than men to develop osteoporosis, it is especially important for them to be evaluated. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that all women over 65 have a bone density measurement as well as younger women and older men with multiple risk factors.

What if my bone density is low, or I already have osteoporosis?

The physicians at the UConn Center for Osteoporosis will evaluate your condition and prepare a personalized treatment plan to fit your needs.

Are You Taking A Bisphosphonate Medication For Osteoporosis?

Elderly woman

Recently, a condition called osteonecrosis of the jaw (an area of bone destruction of the upper or lower jaw bone) has been reported in patients treated with bisphosphonates. Most cases have been in cancer patients after undergoing dental procedures, such as tooth extractions and who had received multiple doses of intravenous bisphosphonates such as Aredia or Zometa. There have been a few cases in patients with osteoporosis treated with the oral medication Fosamax and fewer with Actonel, but these cases are extremely rare.

If you are taking any of these medications and need to have a dental procedure, such as an extraction, talk to your doctor about reducing the dose or stopping the medication at least for a while. Do not just stop taking the medication on your own – please consult your doctor. Your doctor may wish to monitor  “markers” of your bone health to help find out whether a lower dose is adequate for you, or to help decide when to restart treatment if it has been stopped.

Also, make sure any doctor, oral surgeon or dentist who treats you knows that you are on these medicines, and all medications, particularly if you are having dental surgery.

Here's a list of bisphosphonate medications:

  • Alendronate (Fosamax)
  • Risedronate (Actonel)
  • Etidronate (Didronel)
  • Ibandronate (Boniva)
  • Pamidronate (Aredia)
  • Zoledronate (Zometa)