Last revised by Patrick O'Shea on 4 Feb 2023

Osteopenia refers to decreased bone mineral density. The change can be generalized or regional.


The World Health Organizatiοn (WHO) has formalized criteria for osteopenia, defined as a bone mineral density score between -1 and -2.5 standard deviations compared to a young adult reference mean (T-score) based on dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA).

However, radiologists continue to use the term in a generic and qualitative manner to mean decreased bone density, without distinguishing osteopenia and osteoporosis. Because of this discrepancy, some have advocated avoiding the use of osteopenia on bone radiographs and CT in favor of "demineralization" 1.

History and etymology

Osteopenia derives from the Greek words οστεον (osteon) meaning bone and πενια (penia) meaning poverty 2,3.

NB: the spelling "osteopaenia" is erroneous and should never be used, see paenia vs penia article

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