Manitoba Bone Density Program

Recent years have seen a dramatic new focus on an old disease – osteoporosis (a condition characterized by reduced bone strength and susceptibility to bone fracture). Formerly osteoporosis was seen as an inevitable part of aging, and consequently little effort was expended in its early detection or treatment. This situation has altered radically.  There have been great advances in our knowledge of the risk factors of osteoporosis and fracture. Accurate, non-invasive techniques are available for measuring bone mass and strength, and these have been validated in many populations including Manitoba. New treatments are available for the treatment of osteoporosis which, in large randomized controlled trials, have been proven safe and effective.  In short, there has been a complete philosophical transformation of our approach to osteoporosis.

Not surprisingly, increased attention to osteoporosis as a treatable disease has resulted in substantial increases in utilization of associated medical resources.  It is known that currently only a small fraction of patients with osteoporosis or who have sustained a major osteoporotic fracture are being treated. The scope of the problem is enormous. At age 50, a healthy woman has almost a 50% risk of sustaining an osteoporotic fracture during the remainder of her lifetime, and 15% will sustain a hip fracture with significant excess risk of death, institutionalization and loss of independence. Although traditionally considered a disease of females, males can also sustain osteoporotic fractures and at a given age are estimated to have approximately one-half the rate of females. Each year almost 1,000 Manitobans sustain a hip fracture, virtually all of which are related to osteoporosis. Many more will develop non-hip osteoporotic fractures. The financial implications, life-years lost and morbidity from these fractures is enormous. Unfortunately, few of these people currently receive adequate testing or treatment to prevent the next fracture.

Program Description

Bone density testing is currently operated as a single program in Manitoba. This program reports through the Chair of the Department of Radiology, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, who in turn reports to Manitoba Health.

Responsibilities of the bone density program:

(A) Clinical protocols for bone density measurements.

  • Clearly define situations in which bone density measurements are appropriate, inappropriate or unproven.
  • Define the optimal timing of initial and/or follow-up measurements.
  • Ensure that bone density of protocols are integrated into clinical management guidelines.

(B) Needs assessment for bone density services in Manitoba.

  • Determine the bone density needs based upon the clinical protocols and demographics of the province of Manitoba (to be updated to reflect new medical evidence and/or changes to the population of Manitoba).
  • Determine the optimal way of providing the services identified by the needs assessment.
  • Ensure a consistent approach to bone density measurement by overseeing the selection and distribution of bone density equipment in Manitoba.

(C) Assessment of current and emerging bone density technologies.

  • Develop guidelines for technologist training to ensure safe and effective operation of bone density equipment.
  • Develop criteria for physician training to ensure accurate interpretation of bone density measurements.
  • Establish a quality assurance program to be followed by each bone density facility.
  • Assess new bone measurement technologies and incorporate these into clinical protocols when judged to be appropriate.

(D) Monitor the bone density program.

  • Track utilization of bone density testing as well as clinical indications and patient demographics.
  • Assess the impact of the bone density on patient management and outcome.
  • Ensure that the operation of bone density units contributes to research and other academic activities that benefit the residents of the province of Manitoba.
  • Act as an educational resource for the public, for specialist and nonspecialist medical practitioners, and for other allied health personnel.

Guidelines for Testing

Specific criteria have been identified which allow targeted testing to be performed. These are as follows:

  • Vertebral low-trauma (fragility) fracture proven by x-ray (Note: Bone density testing is not required for diagnosis of osteoporosis as active treatment is usually indicated. Attach copy of x-ray report as this will help in test interpretation.)
  • Non-vertebral fragility fracture proven by x-ray
  • Osteopenia or osteoporosis identified on x-ray
  • Systemic corticosteroid therapy for more than 3 months in the last year
  • Aromatase inhibitor therapy for breast cancer
  • Prolonged amenorrhea, surgical menopause or premature menopause prior to age 45
  • Woman age 65 or older (screening in men, and in women younger than age 65, are not approved indications unless additional risk factors are provided below)
  • Follow up of a previous bone density measurement (recommended initial interval 3 years for most patients, at least 5 years if previously reported as low risk, 1 year in patients on systemic corticosteroid therapy or aromatase inhibitors)

Other indications may be considered if appropriate clinical justification is provided.

St. Boniface General Hospital
Bone Density and J. P. MacLean Osteoporosis Centre
408 – 400 Tache Avenue
Winnipeg MB R2H 3C3
Telephone: 204-237-2756
Fax: 204-237-4195