Thalassemia Research and Care: 2013 Update
V. Update on Bone Densitometry (DXA)
by Ellen Fung, PhD, RD
Bone health is assessed by a Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) examination. The DXA test is ordered by a doctor, and the results provide information about the density of a patient’s bones in comparison to individuals of the same age and gender who do not have thalassemia.
Patients with thalassemia frequently have low bone mass, and many adults experience significant bone pain and have increased risk of fracture. These complications are not limited to patients with thalassemia major but are also observed in non-transfused thalassemia intermedia, e-beta thalassemia, and hemoglobin H patients.
The most effective way to prevent low bone mass is to build strong, dense bones during youth. A combination of disease, endocrine issues, and nutritional factors likely contribute to the etiology of osteoporosis in patients with thalassemia. To help build healthy bones, it is important to do the following:
- Consume a diet rich in calcium.
- Have vitamin D levels checked, and maintain your serum vitamin D level >30 ng/mL
- Participate in non-contact, weight-bearing physical activity, as tolerated.
- Get a measurement of your bone density every one to two years (DXA scan).
- Have an endocrine evaluation as indicated by your doctor.
If you already have low bone mass, there are treatments that can improve and/or stop the condition from progressing. It is important to discuss this with your health-care provider.
For more information, contact:
Ellen Fung, PhD, RD
Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland
(510) 428-3885, ext. 4939
Also see: The Bone Density Clinic at Children's Hospital Oakland.