JBJS Editor’s Choice–Distal Radius Fractures in Older Men: Why So Much Publicity?

In my 20-plus years serving as a deputy editor and editor of JBJS, I have never seen the kind of media interest in research published in The Journal that the Harper et al. study on distal radius fractures in older men has received.

This well-done retrospective evaluation of 95 males and 344 females who were treated for a distal radius fracture at a single institution has been discussed in multiple forums and media outlets, including the national newswire services, scientific and clinical blog sites, and health reports on local and national TV newscasts.

One conclusion from the Harper et al. analysis was that males older than 50 who had a distal radius fracture are receiving far worse follow-up care compared to females with the same characteristics in terms of bone-mineral density testing and subsequent pharmacologic treatment to prevent future fractures. For example, an older male with a fragility-caused distal radius fracture is nearly 10 times less likely to undergo bone-density testing than a woman with the same fracture. What is so newsworthy about this finding as to prompt headlines such as “Gender Bias in Osteoporosis Screening”?

My hypothesis is that orthopaedic research has focused too much on procedural-based interventions. When research such as the Harper et al. study extends beyond developing new therapies to matters of population health and application of evidence-based therapies, the public pays especially close attention. Previous OrthoBuzz posts by my JBJS predecessor Vern Tolo, MD and JBJS Reviews Editor-in-Chief Tom Einhorn, MD have called on clinicians to take a more aggressive approach toward primary and secondary prevention of fragility fractures. JBJS commentator Douglas Dirschl, MD says that the gender disparity revealed by Harper et al. “should shock the medical community into improved performance.”

Orthopaedic surgeons are increasingly working in teams consisting of family physicians with additional musculoskeletal training, radiologists, anesthesiologists, nurses, PTs, OTs, and athletic trainers. As our field expands its scope to “musculoskeletal health, prevention, and treatment” and away from exclusively invasive interventions, let’s continue to invite the public along. Based on the media coverage of the Harper et al. study, the public appears to be a willing partner in our attempts to reduce the risk of fragility fractures.

Do you think including preventive and population-health perspectives is the right direction for our field? Send us a comment of support or a dissenting view by clicking on the “Leave a Comment” button in the box to the left.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD

JBJS Editor-in-Chief

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