OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from James Blair, MD, in response to a recent edition of the OrthoJOE podcast.
Geriatric hip fractures are among the fastest growing subset of injuries that orthopaedic surgeons treat. Often these injuries are the first objective signs of osteoporosis. While the surgical treatment of these fractures continues to improve, orthopaedic surgeons may be neglecting their role in triggering investigations into the underlying bone health of these patients.
A recent insurance database analysis by Sara Cromer, MD, presented at the Endocrine Society’s 2021 Annual Meeting, demonstrated a substantial drop in the use of bone-directed medications over the past decade, despite the rise in the number of osteoporotic-related fractures. It is unclear why this trend has occurred, but the main concern is that new diagnoses of osteoporosis are being overlooked.
This concern arose during a recent OrthoJOE podcast focused on distal radial fractures. OrthoEvidence Editor-in-Chief Dr. Mo Bhandari alluded to the confusion over who is responsible for bone-health intervention during treatment of a fragility fracture: the inpatient orthopaedic surgery team, the hospitalist, or the patient’s family physician or internist. “The thought is that someone is going to manage this,” Dr. Bhandari states. “Everyone is looking at everyone else, and it’s not happening.”
In fragility-fracture cases, JBJS Editor-in-Chief Dr. Marc Swiontkowski emphasized the importance of orthopaedic surgeons initiating investigations into their patients’ bone quality with evaluations of vitamin D, ionized calcium, and parathyroid and thyroid hormone levels. “We are failing miserably at this,” Dr. Swiontkowski laments, recalling seeing 3 elderly patients in a single day with a hip fracture that was preceded by a distal radial fracture a decade earlier–with no bone-health investigation ever performed at that time.
Initiatives like the American Orthopaedic Association’s (AOA’s) “Own The Bone” program try to raise awareness of our broader responsibility as orthopaedic surgeons when treating osteoporotic fractures such as those of the proximal femur, distal radius, and vertebrae. Drs. Bhandari and Swiontkowski strongly believe that the orthopaedic surgeon must claim ownership of their patients’ bone health, not necessarily by medically managing such cases, but by initiating a dialog with the patient’s primary care physician and/or rheumatologist/endocrinologist.
Click here to find out more about the AOA’s “Own The Bone” program.
James A. Blair, MD is the Director of Orthopaedic Trauma at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University and a member of the JBJS Social Media Advisory Board.
Osteoporosis is the major contributor to the increasing incidence of fragility fractures associated with low-energy falls. The other contributor is the populous baby-boomer generation that is entering its final decades of life. Our orthopaedic community has made some progress in “owning the bone” to prevent fragility fractures. For example, we have gotten better at identifying a first fragility fracture as a major risk for a subsequent fracture; we more frequently initiate medical treatment for osteoporosis, and we are more inclined to refer patients with a first fragility fracture to a fracture liaison service, if one exists (see related OrthoBuzz posts).
However, orthopaedic physicians treating patients with fragility fractures need to remember that osteoporosis-treatment complications are also within our scope of responsibility. In the January 20, 2021 issue of The Journal, Lee et al. retrospectively analyzed 53 patients (all women, with an average age of 72 years) who had a complete atypical femoral fracture (AFF), a phenomenon primarily related to bisphosphonate treatment for osteoporosis. More than 37% of these patients were given bisphosphonates after their first AFF, and among those 53 patients who went on to show radiographic progression toward a second AFF in the contralateral femur, 61% used bisphosphonates after surgery for the first AFF.
The most shocking aspect of the findings by Lee et al. is the unacceptably high percentage of patients who remained on bisphosphonate therapy after the initial AFF. I wholeheartedly agree with Anna Miller, MD, who writes in her Commentary on this study that “an atypical stress fracture while on bisphosphonates should be considered a failure of bisphosphonate treatment, and that therapy should be stopped immediately.” If there is ongoing osteoporosis in such cases, the orthopaedic surgeon should consider prescribing an anabolic drug such as teraparatide or abaloparatide–and should communicate with the patient’s endocrinologist or other physician who might still be prescribing bisphosphonates.
In my opinion, we have to improve more quickly on both of these clinical issues–secondary fragility fracture prevention and treatment of bisphosphonate-therapy complications–because the population dynamics in the US and worldwide are evolving rapidly.
Click here to view a 2-minute video summary of this study’s design and findings.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
“We believe that bone health screening should be considered in all orthopaedic surgical candidates who are ≥50 years of age.” So proclaim Kadri et al., based on results of their study of 124 patients who were referred by orthopaedic surgeons for preoperative bone health optimization. The study appeared in the April 1, 2020 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.
The importance of identifying poor bone health before reconstructive orthopaedic surgery is well known but poorly implemented. The bone health evaluation in this cohort consisted of a physical examination, structured history-taking focused on prior fracture, and collection of Fracture Risk Assessment Tool (FRAX) data. Most (122 patients) also underwent dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), and more than two-thirds were evaluated with a trabecular bone score. Incidental CT scans were available for and evaluated in 43 patients. Based on these data, Kadri et al. found the following:
- >90% of the cohort met National Osteoporosis Foundation criteria for osteoporosis treatment.
- A high FRAX risk (major osteoporotic fracture ≥20% or hip ≥3%) was present in 82% of the patients.
- Osteoporosis, as defined by T scores of ≤─2.5 points, was present in 45% of the women and 20% of the men.
- Trabecular bone scores identified 34% of patients as having degraded bone microarchitecture.
As a result of these findings, 75% of the cohort were prescribed treatment for osteoporosis; 45% were prescribed anabolic agents and 30% were prescribed antiresorptive therapy.
For patients with clinical risk factors for osteoporosis and high FRAX risk, Kadri et al. recommend bone health optimization strategies for a minimum of 3 months prior to any planned orthopaedic surgery. “It has been our experience that patients are generally satisfied and are grateful to undergo bone health optimization despite a delay in the surgical procedure,” they write.
Although postsurgical outcomes among these patients were not analyzed, the authors intuitively point out that bone health optimization probably reduces the likelihood of postoperative complications and revisions and therefore would lead to improved outcomes and lower costs. Preoperative bone health optimization could also help surgeons select the most effective surgical technique and/or implant, they say.
The orthopaedic community began to move away from individual fracture classifications in the mid-1980s. The basis for that shift was the need for wider recognition that fractures represent a “continuous variable,” with infinite varieties of orientations and combinations of fracture lines. Trying to fit fractures into a narrow classification system can lead to confusion and misinformation. Furthermore, surgeons often disagree when determining a fracture’s classification and, therefore, which treatment is best.
To move away from individual classification systems, orthopaedic journals have generally moved toward the compendium of fracture classifications approved by the OTA and AO. Still, there are times when a new fracture classification seems appropriate, and in the June 5, 2019 issue of The Journal, Pieroh et al. have provided us with an example that classifies fragility fractures of the pelvis (FFP). The 4-group FFP classification is based on fracture morphology with different degrees of instability and includes treatment recommendations.
The authors collected the CT scans of 60 patients from 6 different hospitals who were ≥60 years old and had sustained a pelvic fracture from low-energy trauma. These CT scans were shown to 6 experienced surgeons, 6 inexperienced surgeons, and 1 surgeon who had direct experience/training with the FFP system. Each surgeon was asked to classify the pelvic fractures according to the FFP classification. Inter- and intra-rater reliabilities for the fracture classifications were calculated from these readings, and the overall inter-rater Kappa coefficient was found to be 0.53, while the overall intra-rater Kappa coefficient was 0.46 (Kappa coefficients of 0.61 to 0.41 constitute “moderate” reliability). In terms of percent agreement, there was greater agreement between surgeons when it came to classifying FFP Group 1 fractures than for FFP Group 2 and 3 fractures. This is noteworthy because Group 3 fractures are thought to require surgical treatment, while primary treatment for Group 2 fractures is usually nonoperative.
Pelvic fractures that are associated with low bone density and low-energy trauma are becoming increasingly frequent as our population continues to skew older. Having a validated, relatively straightforward classification system like the FFP to assist us in managing these patients will be of great assistance. The sound methodology used to develop the FFP classification system and its decent reliability, face validity, and construct and criterion validity can assure all of us about the usefulness of the FFP classification as the basis for future clinical investigations and to advance the care of these patients.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
Osteoporosis is a “silent” disease, often becoming apparent only after a patient older than 50 sustains a low-energy fracture of the wrist, proximal humerus, or hip. Monitoring serum vitamin D levels and DEXA testing represent ideal screening methods to prevent these sentinel fragility fractures. In addition, through programs such as the AOA’s “Own the Bone” initiative, the orthopaedic community has taken a leadership role in diagnosing and treating osteoporosis after the disease presents as a fragility fracture. Own the Bone is active in all 50 states and, through local physician leadership, is identifying individuals who present with a fragility fracture so they can receive follow-up care that helps mitigate bone loss and prevent secondary fractures.
We still have a long way to go, however. Recent analyses show that only 30% of candidate patients (albeit up from 20%) are receiving this type of evidence-based care. The best-case scenario would be to identify at-risk men and women (osteoporosis does not affect women exclusively) before a potentially serious injury.
In the December 5, 2018 issue of The Journal, Anderson et al. present strong evidence that computed tomography (CT) can provide accurate data for diagnosing osteoporosis. CT is increasingly used (perhaps overused in some settings) across a spectrum of diagnostic investigations. The osseous-related data from these scans can be used to glean accurate information regarding a patient’s bone quality by analyzing the Hounsfield unit (HU) values of bone captured opportunistically by CT. HU data are routinely ignored, but the values correlate strongly with bone mineral density, and they could help us recommend preventive care to our patients before a fragility fracture occurs. (For example, a threshold of <135 HU for the L1 vertebral body indicates a risk for osteoporosis.)
Orthopaedists should discuss the possibility of asking their radiologist colleagues who read CT scans of older patients to routinely share that data. When indicated, we could promptly refer patients back to their primary care provider for discussion of pharmacological treatment and lifestyle changes proven to help prevent primary fragility fractures. There is little doubt that our patients are getting older. Reviewing CT data could help us dramatically improve preventive care and decrease the risk of first-time fragility fractures.
Click here for additional OrthoBuzz posts about fragility fractures.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
Fracture liaison services and similar coordinated, multidisciplinary fragility-fracture reduction programs for patients with osteoporosis work (see related OrthoBuzz posts), but until now, the data corroborating that have come from either academic medical centers or large integrated health care systems. The November 7, 2018 issue of The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery presents solid evidence from a retrospective cohort study that a private orthopaedic practice-based osteoporosis management service (OP MS) also successfully reduces the risk of subsequent fragility fractures in older patients who have already sustained one.
Sietsema et al. collected fee-for-service Medicare data for Michigan residents who had any fracture from April 1, 2010 to September 30, 2014 (mean age of 75 years). From that data, they compared outcomes for patients who received nurse-practitioner-led OP MS care from a single-specialty private orthopaedic practice within 90 days of the first fracture to outcomes among a propensity-score-matched cohort of similar patients who did not receive OP MS care. There were >1,300 patients in each cohort, and both groups were followed for an average of 2 years. The private practice’s OP MS services incorporated the multidisciplinary protocols promulgated by the American Orthopaedic Association’s “Own the Bone” program.
The cohort exposed to OP MS had a longer median time to subsequent fracture (998 versus 743 days), a lower incidence rate of any subsequent fracture (300 versus 381 fractures per 1,000 person-years), and higher incidence rates of osteoporosis medication prescriptions filled (159 versus 90 per 1,000 person-years). Over the first 12 months of the follow-up period, total medical costs did not differ significantly between the 2 cohorts.
These findings are consistent with those reported from academic or integrated health-system settings. According to the authors, this preponderance of evidence “emphasize[s] the importance of coordinated care in reducing subsequent fractures, lengthening the time to their occurrence, and improving patient outcomes.” Sietsema et al. conclude further that “the U.S. Medicare population would benefit from widespread implementation of such models in collaboration with orthopaedic providers and payers.”
Orthopaedic care teams can play an active role in evaluating and optimizing their patients’ bone health to help prevent primary and secondary fragility fractures and to improve postsurgical outcomes. In just about any orthopaedic scenario, helping patients optimize their bone health is an imperative for the delivery of quality care.
On Tuesday, September 11, 2018 at 8 pm EDT, the American Orthopaedic Association (AOA) and The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery (JBJS) will host a complimentary one-hour webinar that will cover the basics of a bone-health assessment by orthopaedists.
- Christopher Shuhart, MD will discuss the fundamentals of bone-related laboratory workups and bone densitometry studies.
- Joe Lane, MD, FAOA will identify bone-health “red flags” in orthopaedic patients, including common nutritional deficiencies.
- Paul Anderson, MD, FAOA will cover recent advances in bone-density measurements.
Moderated by Douglas Lundy, MD, MBA, FAOA, orthopaedic trauma surgeon at Resurgens Orthopaedics, this webinar will include a 15-minute live Q&A session during which attendees can ask questions of the panelists.
Seats are limited so REGISTER NOW.
On Thursday evening, June 28 and all day Friday, June 29 in Boston, The American Orthopaedic Association (AOA) and the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses (NAON) will present two educational/networking events concentrating on secondary fragility fracture prevention.
The Thursday evening Workshop, available only to those attending the Friday Symposium, will convene clinicians with expertise in counseling and treating fragility fracture patients. “This new two-hour workshop provides an additional opportunity to learn more about identifying, assessing, counseling, and treating fragility fracture patients,” said program co-chair Debra Sietsema, PhD, RN. “The Workshop also includes special breakout stations on calcium, FRAX, and the AOA’s ‘Own the Bone’ initiative.”
The all-day Symposium on Friday focuses on how to establish a multidisciplinary secondary fragility fracture program. In addition, the Symposium will include relevant case studies demonstrating how to translate the principles into hospital, private-practice, or clinic settings. “This Symposium is a great opportunity for orthopaedic surgeons and allied health professionals to get the full picture in one day,” said Dr. Sietsema. “Attendees will gain both basic and expanded knowledge to put their programs in place.”
Register by May 15 to receive early-bird pricing for these important events. NAON members and clinicians from enrolled Own the Bone institutions save an additional $50.
How well do fracture liaison services (FLSs) work in terms of patients who’ve had a fragility fracture receiving a recommendation for anti-osteoporosis treatment? Very well, according to findings from an analysis of more than 32,000 patients by Dirschl and Rustom in the April 18, 2018 edition of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.
A fracture liaison service is a coordinated, multidisciplinary model of care designed to reduce the risk of future fractures among patients who’ve sustained a primary fragility fracture. (Click here for another recent JBJS article about the FLS model.) The American Orthopaedic Association (AOA) has been a major proponent of the FLS model, and it is a cornerstone of the AOA’s “Own the Bone” national quality-improvement program.
Dirschl and Rustom found that between 2009 and 2016, at 147 sites participating in an FLS through Own the Bone, 72.8% of 32,671 patients initially evaluated for a fragility fracture received a recommendation for anti-osteoporosis treatment. That’s a vast improvement compared with previous reports that indicate only 20% of patients with a fragility fracture received either an osteoporosis evaluation or treatment. In this current study, a sedentary lifestyle and having a parent who had sustained a hip fracture were the patient factors associated with those most likely to receive a recommendation for treatment.
OrthoBuzz editors were surprised to read that anti-osteoporosis treatment was initiated in only 12.1% of the patients in this study. When we asked JBJS Editor-in-Chief Marc Swiontkowski, MD for a further explanation, he noted that the study captured data only from the initial post-fracture encounter between patients and FLS clinicians. The percentage of patients initiating treatment would have been much higher, he said, if the data had included those who followed up their initial FLS evaluation with a primary care physician. He also remarked that some people are dissuaded from taking an FDA-approved prescription anti-osteoporosis medication by the disproportionate focus on side effects that patients read in social media and the lay press. And there are some patients for whom prescription anti-osteoporosis drugs are truly contraindicated.
But with an estimated 2 million people in the US sustaining a fragility fracture each year, these results indicate substantial progress in practices that will prevent secondary fractures.
Click here for a listing of upcoming Own the Bone events.
This basic science tip comes from Fred Nelson, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon in the Department of Orthopedics at Henry Ford Hospital and a clinical associate professor at Wayne State Medical School. Some of Dr. Nelson’s tips go out weekly to more than 3,000 members of the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS), and all are distributed to more than 30 orthopaedic residency programs. Those not sent to the ORS are periodically reposted in OrthoBuzz with the permission of Dr. Nelson.
Bone mineral density (BMD)—a measure of both cortical and trabecular bone—has been widely used as an index of bone fragility. The femoral neck and lumbar vertebrae are the areas most commonly measured with BMD, but hip osteoarthritis and lumbar spondylosis can mask systemic osteoporosis. In addition, the most common fragility fractures occur at the distal radius.
Investigators conducted a prospective study using high-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography (HR-pQCT) of the distal radius and tibia to determine whether baseline skeletal parameters could predict fragility fractures in women. A second goal was to establish whether women who have fragility fractures experience bone loss at a faster rate than those who do not have fractures.
Among 149 women older than 60 years who had baseline and 5-year follow-up HR-pQCT, 22 had a fragility fracture during the study period and 127 did not. HR-pQCT is able to record total bone mineral density (Tt.BMD), trabecular bone mineral density (Tb.BMD), trabecular number (Tb.N), and trabecular separation (Tb.Sp).
The analysis showed that women with fragility fractures had lower baseline Tt.BMD (19%), Tb.BMD (25%), and Tb.N (14%), along with higher Tb.Sp (19%) than women who did not experience a fracture. Analysis of the tibia measures yielded similar results, showing that women with incident fracture had lower Tt.BMD (15%), Tb.BMD (12%), cortical thickness (14%), and cortical area (12%). Also, women with fractures had lower failure load (10%) with higher total area and trabecular area than women without fractures.
For each standard deviation decrease of a measure at the distal radius, the odds ratio for fragility fracture was 2.1 for Tt.BMD. 2.0 for Tb.BMD, and 1.7 for Tb.N. ORs for those measures at the tibia were similar.
In contrast to these findings, the annualized percent rate of bone loss was not different between groups with and without fractures. These results suggest that future fragility-fracture risk prediction should rely at least as much on bone architecture and strength as on simple BMD measurements.
Burt LA, Manske SL, Hanley DA, Boyd SK. Lower Bone Density, Impaired Microarchitecture, and Strength Predict Future Fragility Fracture in Postmenopausal Women: 5-Year Follow-up of the Calgary CaMos Cohort. J Bone Miner Res. 2018 Jan 24. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.3347 PMID: 29363165