Osteoporosis International

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 965–972 | Cite as

Use of a performance algorithm improves utilization of vertebral fracture assessment in clinical practice

  • J. T. Schousboe
  • F. McKiernan
  • J. T. Fuehrer
  • N. Binkley
Original Article



A performance algorithm can be successfully used by bone density technologists at the time of a bone density test to identify patients with an indication for vertebral fracture assessment (VFA). Doing so appropriately increases physician prescription of fracture prevention medication.


Densitometric spine imaging (vertebral fracture assessment, VFA) can identify prevalent vertebral fracture but is underutilized. We developed an algorithm by which DXA technologists identify patients for whom VFA should be performed. Following this algorithm, VFA was performed in patients whose lowest T-score (lumbar spine, total hip, or femoral neck) was between −1.5 and −2.4 inclusive and with one of the following: age, ≥65 years; height loss, ≥1.5 in.; or current systemic glucocorticoid therapy. Our main objectives were to assess change in VFA utilization at two other healthcare organizations after algorithm implementation, and to estimate the association of VFA results with prescription of fracture prevention medication.


The proportions of patients with an indication for VFA who had one performed before and after algorithm implementation were compared. Logistic regression was used to estimate the multivariable-adjusted association of VFA results with subsequent prescription of fracture prevention medication adjusted for healthcare organization (study site).


After algorithm introduction, appropriate VFA use rose significantly Patients with a VFA positive for vertebral fracture had an odds ratio of 3.2 (95 % C.I., 2.1–5.1) for being prescribed new fracture prevention medication, adjusted for age, sex, prior clinical fracture, use of glucocorticoid medication, femoral neck bone mineral density T-score, and study site.


An algorithm to identify those for whom VFA is indicated can successfully be implemented by DXA technologists. Documentation of vertebral fracture increases prescription of fracture prevention medication for patients who otherwise lack an apparent indication for such therapy.


Bone densitometry Vertebral fracture assessment VFA 


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Copyright information

© International Osteoporosis Foundation and National Osteoporosis Foundation 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. T. Schousboe
    • 1
    • 2
  • F. McKiernan
    • 3
  • J. T. Fuehrer
    • 3
  • N. Binkley
    • 4
  1. 1.Health Research CenterPark Nicollet ClinicMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Division of Health Policy and ManagementUniversity of MinnesotaMinnesotaUSA
  3. 3.Marshfield Clinic Research FoundationMarshfieldUSA
  4. 4.University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public HealthMadisonUSA

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