FRAX® Tool Helps Determine Who’s at Risk for Bone Fractures
FRAX® is a fracture risk assessment tool (computer software) developed by the World Health Organization (WHO). FRAX calculates a person’s absolute fracture risk or estimates of the chance of breaking a bone (eg, hip, spine) within the next 10 years. It can also help pinpoint those people who might benefit from taking an osteoporosis medicine. Both the National Osteoporosis Foundation and International Society for Clinical Densitometry have included FRAX in their recommended guidelines utilized by clinicians.
While doctors have known for years that people with osteoporosis, which means porous bone, should consider treatment to reduce the risk of broken bones, it hasn’t always been clear when to treat people who have osteopenia. Osteoporosis is a serious disease of the bones that develops when you lose too much bone, make too little bone, or both. As your bones lose density, they also become weaker and more likely to break.
About 52 million Americans1 have osteoporosis and or osteopenia. Osteopenia means that bone mass or bone mineral density is lower than normal but not yet low enough to be considered osteoporosis. FRAX can help doctors and healthcare providers make more accurate decisions about patient care.
FRAX looks at a person’s age, bone density, and other risk factors to estimate their chance of breaking a hip or other major bone in the next decade. If you have low bone density, your central bone density test report (DEXA or dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) may include your FRAX score along with your bone density. If it doesn’t, your healthcare provider can find out your FRAX score using a web-based version.
The FRAX tool can be used to guide decisions about treatment in people who meet the following three conditions:
- Postmenopausal women or men age 50 and older
- People with low bone density (osteopenia)
- People who have not taken an osteoporosis medicine
If you’re age 50 or older and have broken a bone, you should talk to your doctor about having a DEXA scan of the hip and spine. The DEXA is the only test that can diagnose osteoporosis before a broken bone occurs.
Having low bone density does not mean you will get osteoporosis but it indicates that you have a greater chance of developing osteoporosis if you lose bone in the future. Studies suggest that approximately one in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Those who have been recently diagnosed should discuss medication and other treatment options with their healthcare provider and look at both the risks and benefits of taking a medicine, including potential side effects.