Osteoporosis Screening for Fracture Prevention

What the updated evidence-based guidelines mean for your patients

By Pelin Batur, MD

Advertising Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services Policy

A 60-year-old woman reports that her last menstrual period was 7 years ago. She has no history of falls or fractures, and she takes no medications. She smokes 10 cigarettes per day and drinks 3-4 alcoholic beverages on most days of the week. She is 5 feet 6 inches (170 cm) tall and weighs 107 lb. Should she be screened for osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is underdiagnosed

It is estimated that, in the United States, 12.3 million individuals older than 50 will develop osteoporosis by 2020. Missed opportunities to screen high-risk individuals can lead to fractures, including fractures of the hip.1

Updated screening recommendations

In 2018, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) developed and published evidence-based recommendations for osteoporosis screening to help providers identify and treat osteoporosis early to prevent fractures.2

Available evidence on screening and treatment in women and men were reviewed with the intention of updating the 2011 USPSTF recommendations. The review also evaluated risk assessment tools, screening intervals, and efficacy of screening and treatment in various subpopulations.

Advertising Policy

Since the 2011 recommendations, more data have become available on fracture risk assessment with or without bone mineral density measurements. In its 2018 report, the USPSTF recommends that postmenopausal women younger than 65 should undergo screening with a bone density test if their 10-year risk of major osteoporotic fracture is more than 8.4%. This is equivalent to the fracture risk of a 65-year-old white woman with no major risk factors for fracture (grade B recommendation—high certainty that the benefit is moderate, or moderate certainty that the benefit is moderate to substantial).2

Assessment of fracture risk

For postmenopausal women who are under age 65 and who have at least 1 risk factor for fracture, it is reasonable to use a clinical risk assessment tool to determine who should undergo screening with bone mineral density measurement. Risk factors associated with an increased risk of osteoporotic fractures include a parental history of hip fracture, smoking, intake of 3 or more alcoholic drinks per day, low body weight, malabsorption, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and postmenopausal status (not using estrogen replacement). Medications should be carefully reviewed for those that can increase the risk of fractures, including steroids and antiestrogen treatments.

The 10-year risk of a major osteoporotic or hip fracture can be assessed using the Fractional Risk Assessment Tool (FRAX), available at www.sheffi eld.ac.uk/FRAX/. Other acceptable tools that perform similarly to FRAX include the Osteoporosis Risk Assessment Instrument (ORAI) (10 studies; N = 16,780), Osteoporosis Index of Risk (OSIRIS) (5 studies; N = 5,649), Osteoporosis Self-Assessment Tool (OST) (13 studies; N = 44,323) and Simple Calculated Osteoporosis Risk Estimation (SCORE) (8 studies; N = 15,362).

Should this patient be screened for osteoporosis?

Based on the FRAX, this patient’s 10-year risk of major osteoporosis fracture is 9.2%. She would benefit from osteoporosis screening with a bone density test.

Advertising Policy


  1. Cauley JA. Screening for osteoporosis. JAMA 2018; 319(24):2483-2485.
  2. US Preventive Services Task Force, Curry SJ, Krist AH, Owens DK, et al. Screening for osteoporosis to prevent fractures: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA. 2018; 319(24):2521–2531.


Please note: this article originally appeared in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine.