, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 1007-1014
Date: 10 Jan 2013

Vertebral fracture assessment scans enhance targeting of investigations and treatment within a fracture risk assessment pathway

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Abstract

Summary

Vertebral fracture assessment (VFA) scanning is a useful tool to aid vertebral fracture identification. In this evaluation, we show that introduction of a comprehensive fracture risk assessment pathway incorporating VFA has enhanced diagnosis of vertebral fractures and improved targeting of investigations and treatment.

Introduction

Vertebral fractures are a common manifestation of osteoporosis and are associated with an increased risk of future vertebral and non-vertebral fractures. VFA is a method of imaging the thoraco-lumbar spine and a useful tool to aid vertebral fracture identification. In August 2008, a new one-stop pathway was introduced incorporating VFA and laboratory investigations at the time of bone mineral density assessment. The aims of this evaluation were to evaluate the clinical utility of VFA in identifying vertebral fractures which had not presented clinically and to evaluate the impact of this on management.

Methods

We performed a retrospective 6-month review of the new pathway focussing on those patients undergoing VFA who were suspected to have a vertebral fracture. The outcomes of VFA, spinal X-rays and investigations were evaluated.

Results

Three thousand five hundred twenty-six individuals underwent fracture risk assessment over a 6-month period, of which1,833 underwent VFA. Previously undiagnosed vertebral fractures were found in 202 individuals (36 were in retrospect apparent on prior imaging, and 29 were new vertebral fractures in patients with pre-existing vertebral fractures). Diagnosis of a vertebral fracture led to further investigation in all individuals and altered management in 59 (29 %) individuals. A potentially modifiable underlying cause was found in 42 (21 %).

Conclusions

Introduction of a fracture risk assessment service incorporating VFA and a one-stop pathway has enhanced vertebral fracture identification and targeting of treatment and management.