New Study Assesses Previously Undetected Osteoporotic Vertebral Fractures on CT Scans

CT Scan imagery on computerized equipmentThe most common types of osteoporotic fractures are vertebral fractures, and these fractures can predict future fractures and mortality. In a study, researchers did an audit of vertebral fractures at the Auckland City Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand. They looked at whether targeted assessment for incidental vertebral fractures on computed tomography (CT) examinations of the chest or abdomen in older adults could help indentify previously undetected vertebral fractures.

Results of their study were published in an article in late February 2012 in The New Zealand Medical Journal. The article was called “Incidental vertebral fractures on computed tomography.”

The researchers looked at a total of 175 patients. Participants were 65 years old or older.

Researchers obtained sagittal images of each patient’s spine by re-formatting data from CT examinations of the chest or abdomen. They used a semi-quantitative technique to assess vertebral fractures.

Researchers found that the prevalence of vertebral fractures in these patients was 13%. They noted that 41 vertebral fractures were found in 22 of the patients. Out of these 22 patients, 12 (55%) had vertebral fractures that were reported in the formal CT report, and 2 patients (9%) with contemporaneous plain films had vertebral fractures that were noted in the x-ray report.

In addition, out of these 22 patients, researchers found that vertebral fractures were newly identified in 17 patients (77%). However, for only 14% of these 22 patients, vertebral fracture and osteoporosis were each listed in the discharge summary or clinic letter. They also noted that only 31% of these patients who had a fracture received osteoporosis treatment.

The research team concluded that examining sagittal spine images re-formatted from CT examinations of the chest or abdomen indentifies previously undiagnosed vertebral fractures. They noted that this provides an undervalued chance to review fracture risk and intervene with treatments that reduce mortality and prevent fractures.

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