Reporting of vertebral fragility fractures: can radiologists help reduce the number of hip fractures?
Mitchell RM., Jewell P., Javaid MK., McKean D., Ostlere SJ.
Patients with osteoporotic vertebral fractures are at increased risk of hip fracture. In a cohort of hip fracture patients, many had previous imaging studies showing incidental vertebral fractures. Fifty-four percent of fractures were not reported by the radiologist, highlighting a missed opportunity for diagnosing and treating osteoporosis, thereby preventing further fractures. PURPOSE: Patients with osteoporotic vertebral fragility fractures (VFFs) are at increased risk of future fractures, including hip fractures. Treating osteoporosis in these patients has the potential to reduce the risk of subsequent hip fractures, which are associated with high morbidity, mortality and cost. In this retrospective cohort study, we investigated the reporting and follow-up of VFFs evident on imaging by radiologists at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Data from the local Fracture Liaison Service was used to case-find all incident hip fractures from 2013 presenting to the trust. We then identified patients who had also undergone a radiological procedure that included the thoracic and/or lumbar spine in the previous 6 years. All identified radiological images were re-examined for the presence of VFFs using the Genant semi-quantitative method. RESULTS: Seven hundred and thirty-two patients over the age of 50 with a hip fracture in 2013 were identified. One hundred and fifty-seven patients had previously undergone a radiological procedure involving the spine, and VFFs were identified in 65/157 (41%). Of these, only 30/65 (46%) were reported by a radiologist when the fracture was first visible. 32/35 (91%) of unreported VFFs were from imaging reported by non-musculoskeletal radiologists. Only 16/65 (25%) of patients with a VFF were documented as being on bone-specific therapy at the time of hip fracture. CONCLUSIONS: Our study highlights the under-reporting of osteoporotic vertebral fractures, particularly by non-musculoskeletal radiologists. Better systems for reporting and referring osteoporotic VFFs are necessary to increase the number of patients receiving appropriate osteoporosis treatment.