A history of fracture and a low bone mineral density (BMD) are the strongest predictors of future osteoporotic fracture. This prospective cohort study assessed the impact of these two factors on treatment patterns in women undergoing their first BMD testing in a non-academic community setting. Successive women seen for first BMD testing at two testing centers completed a baseline questionnaire and a mailed 3-month follow-up questionnaire. Patients were grouped by history of fracture after age 20 years (present, absent) and by BMD result [osteoporosis (OP), osteopenia (OPN), normal BMD]. Thirty percent of 1144 patients at least 45 years old reported a history of fracture after age 20 years. They were no more likely than those without a history of fracture to be taking calcium (52% of total), vitamin D (31%), estrogen (31%), or a bisphosphonate (2%) before BMD testing. The BMD testing revealed OP in 20%, OPN in 45%, and normal BMD in 35%. Three months later, the percentages of patients taking treatments differed as follows: calcium (66 vs 53% in OP and OPN groups vs normal BMD), vitamin D (46 vs 37% in OPN group vs normal BMD), estrogen (25 vs 36 vs 44% in groups with OP, OPN, and normal BMD), a bisphosphonate (43 vs 11 vs 1%), and at least one of estrogen or a bisphosphonate (58 vs 43 vs 46%). Treatment decisions were influenced by first BMD testing but not significantly by a history of fracture. There is a substantial care gap in the treatment of patients with OP: either bisphosphonate or estrogen therapy was taken by only 31% of patients at least 45 years old and with a history of fracture after age 20 years before BMD testing and by only 58% of these and who also had OP by BMD.
Bone mineral densityCare gapDecision-makingFracture historyPrimary careTreatment patterns