ATLANTA (AP) _ An X-ray procedure that has been available for about five years can diagnose osteoporosis in people before they break a bone, the government reported Thursday. But it stopped short of endorsing routine screening.

Generally, brittle bone disease goes undiagnosed until a patient suffers a fracture.

The new procedure _ Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry _ identifies dangerously low bone density in patients and takes just five minutes.

Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used it to screen 2,314 post-menopausal women for brittle bones and found that 17 percent had osteoporosis. Of those, only 7 percent said they had been previously diagnosed.

However, the CDC decided against recommending routine screening, even in post-menopausal women, because of the high cost and uncertainty over whether it would make much of a difference in treatment. A scan costs $100 to $200.

Osteoporosis causes about 300,000 hip fractures in the United States each year, the CDC said.