Treatment of Osteoporosis Overview

Osteoporosis is an impairment of bone architecture with aging that leads to increased fragility of bones and a heightened risk of fracture. It is a condition that has no visible signs or symptoms until a bone breaks, but it can be detected with a screening bone mineral density examination (BMD). This is recommended for all women age 65 and older, and for men age 70 and older. Treatment of osteoporosis is now available to mitigate the risk of fractures to the wrist, spine and hip, as well as other bones.

While genetics, race, and sex play an important role in the development of osteoporosis and cannot be modified, other factors such as cigarette smoking, alcohol, steroids and other disorders also cause osteoporosis. These risk factors can be modified, and osteoporosis often prevented. At Brigham and Women’s Hospital, we work with you to improve your bone health, and diminish your risk of falls. In doing so, we hope to protect your independence and quality of life.

To reduce your chance of developing osteoporosis, it is important to understand what you can do to prevent the disease, including:

  • Make sure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D and calcium in your diet
  • Incorporate weight-bearing exercise (such as walking, tennis, or aerobics) into your fitness routine
  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
  • Follow your doctor’s recommendation for bone density screening

If osteoporosis is present with aging, you may require medical treatment to prevent fractures. Osteopenia, a condition that describes thinning of bone without osteoporosis, may require treatment if other risk factors for osteoporosis or further fractures are present. Others include rheumatoid arthritis, depression, diabetes, profound weight loss due to illness and/or malabsorption; a family history of osteoporosis or hip fracture in your mother; and many medications that we commonly use today.

What Are the Treatments for Osteoporosis?

If you have osteoporosis, there are treatment options that will help strengthen your bones. Even if you already have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, medications such alendronate (Fosamax®), risedronate (Actonl®), ibandronate (Boniva®), (zoledronate (Reclast®), raloxifene (Evista®), denosumab (Prolia®) and teriparatide (Forteo®) are all drugs currently available to reduce the risk of fracture.

Osteoporosis, left untreated, can lead to fractures that require orthopaedic surgery. One fracture often predicts a heightened risk of subsequent fracture, and loss of independence for many elderly.

Treatment of Osteoporosis at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Physicians in the Orthopaedic & Arthritis Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) provide a caring, comprehensive approach to the diagnosis, and treatment of osteoporosis, as well as a wide spectrum of other orthopaedic and rheumatic diseases.

The Skeletal Health and Osteoporosis Center is one of the most innovative research and treatment programs in the area of osteoporosis. For this reason, thousands of patients come to our Center for diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis every year.

Founded in 1987, the Center has become a multifaceted program including research, education, clinical care, and a bone densitometry unit that is noted for its quality standards. Specific areas of expertise include osteoporosis, metabolic bone disease, and other skeletal disorders.

The program offers a full integration of clinical, research, and educational programs, and multidisciplinary interaction among numerous departments and subspecialties – including rheumatology, orthopaedic surgery, women’s health, and endocrinology.

Bone and Joint Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

The Orthopaedic & Arthritis Center at BWH is one of the most highly regarded orthopaedic and joint disease research and treatment programs in the world. Comprehensive and innovative bone and joint care is the foundation of the Center, beginning nearly a century ago when one of our founding hospitals, the Robert Breck Brigham Hospital, became the first teaching hospital in the country wholly devoted to arthritis and related diseases.

Today, the Center – a collaboration of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy - is known for its pioneering team of physicians and researchers dedicated to compassionate patient care, treatment programs tailored to the individual, and care integrated among orthopaedics, rheumatology and physical therapy to restore a patient’s health and functional well-being. These same physician-scientists are working to study the biology of disease, the effectiveness of new medications and the outcomes of our patients, while helping to develop new, more advanced treatments for the bone and joint diseases that continue to impose such a burden on our population.

Patient- and Family-centered Care
BWH has long been committed to not only the care of our patients but also the many other needs that they and their families have. This philosophy of patient- and family-centered care involves systems and services that emphasize healing in a comfortable, relaxed environment.

Quality of Patient Care
BWH is committed to providing all of our patients with the safest, highest-quality, most-satisfying care possible and follow established protocols that have been shown to improve patient outcomes. Our Inpatient Satisfaction Survey, sent to patients’ to assess their total care experience, helps us to monitor what we are doing well and areas for improvement. We pride ourselves in the Quality of Patient Care we provide and how we are measured compared with other hospitals.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital Osteoporosis Treatment Team

Year after year, our Rheumatology and Orthopaedic Services are ranked among the top programs in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

The Orthopaedic & Arthritis Center is able to maintain this level of care through a combination of medical expertise, with one of the largest and most experienced staffs in the country; a commitment to quality care, demonstrated by our numerous quality and safety awards; state-of-the-art facilities; and advanced technologies.

Our Orthopaedic & Arthritis Center team of physicians, nurses, physician’s assistants, and staff work closely with colleagues in specialties throughout BWH and nursing to deliver safe, effective, and compassionate care to every patient.

Our Endocrinology and Rheumatology Team:

Contact Us

If you believe you should have an evaluation and would like to schedule an appointment with one of our osteoporosis experts, call 1-800-294-9999 to speak to one of our knowledgeable coordinators who can help to connect you to the doctor that best meets your needs, or fill out an online appointment request.

Meryl LeBoff, MD, Director of Skeletal Health, Osteoporosis Center, and Bone Density Unit, discusses osteoporosis risks, steps that can be taken to reduce bone fractures, techniques for detecting osteoporosis and osteoporosis treatment. Read the Preventing, Diagnosing and Treating Osteoporosis video transcript.