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Management of hospitalised osteoporotic vertebral fractures

Caitriona C1, Mark MG2,3, Elaine H2,4, Claire G2,5, Michelle F4, Persson UM2, Sherrington C6, Blake C2.

Arch Osteoporos. 2020 Feb 20;15(1):14. doi: 10.1007/s11657-020-0687-x.

Management of hospitalised osteoporotic vertebral fracture patients was explored across all major trauma orthopaedic hospitals in Ireland. Findings, based on a survey of orthopaedic doctors and physiotherapists, indicate a lack of standardised clinical care pathways. This study will inform development of clinical audit mechanisms and health service development for this large and growing fracture population in both Ireland and internationally.

To explore the management of hospitalised vertebral fragility fracture (VFF) patients in Ireland.

A cross-sectional survey of orthopaedic doctors (specialist registrar level) and physiotherapists was conducted across all hospitals with major orthopaedic trauma units in Ireland. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics in SPSS (V24).

Responses were achieved from 100% (n = 16) of the hospitals (42 individual physiotherapists and 47 orthopaedic doctors). Conservative management was usual with both orthopaedic doctors (n = 37, 79%) and physiotherapists (n = 40, 96%) reporting prescription of bracing as common practice despite a lack of underpinning evidence. A majority (87%) of the doctors believed osteoporosis medications should commence prior to discharge from the acute setting, but 68% did not agree that responsibility for coordination and delivery of bone health assessment and fracture risk management rested with them. A majority (72%) of physiotherapists reported an absence or were unsure regarding existence of fracture liaison services. 73% of physiotherapists reported prescribing an inpatient or home (78%) exercise programme, including mobility, strength and balance exercise though detail on dose and adherence remain unknown. Wide variance in referral patterns to multi-disciplinary team (MDT) members existed although 79% of orthopaedic doctors supported an MDT approach.

Clinical care pathways for the hospitalised VFF population lack standardisation in Ireland. Key challenges reported by orthopaedic doctors and physiotherapists relate to pain management, osteoporosis medication prescription, clarity on indications for bracing and a lack of fracture liaison services. Clinical guidelines, defined clinical care pathways and high-quality clinical research trials are required for VFF management.