Researchers Assess Re-formatted CT Scans for Previously Undetected Osteoporotic Vertebral Fractures

It’s known that the most common osteoporotic fractures are vertebral fractures, and they help predict subsequent fractures—including future fractures in the spine—and mortality.
Doctor viewing a CT scanRecently, researchers reviewed vertebral fractures in older adults at Auckland City Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand. They wanted to figure out whether targeted assessment for incidental vertebral fractures on computed tomography (CT) examinations of the chest or abdomen would help identify vertebral fractures that have previously gone undetected in this population.

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

The study involved 175 consecutive patients; the patients were 65 years old or older.

Researchers obtained sagittal spine images of the patients by re-formatting data from CT examinations of the chest or abdomen.

The researchers used a semi-quantitative technique to evaluate vertebral fractures.

They found that the prevalence of vertebral fractures was 13%. A total of 41 vertebral fractures were identified in 22 of the patients. Out of these 22 patients, 12 (55%) had a vertebral fracture noted in the formal CT report, and 2 patients (9%) who had contemporaneous plain films had a vertebral fracture that was mentioned in the x-ray report.

Additionally, vertebral fractures were newly identified in 17 of the 22 patients (77%). But it was noted that vertebral fracture and osteoporosis were each listed in the relevant discharge summary or clinic letter for only 14% of the 22 patients. Researchers also noted that only 31% of these patients who had a vertebral fracture subsequently received treatment for osteoporosis.

At the end of the study, researchers found that evaluating sagittal images of the spine re-formatted from CT examinations of the chest or abdomen detects vertebral fractures that have previously gone unrecognized. Their findings point to an undervalued opportunity to assess risk of fracture—including fractures in the spine—and intervene with treatments that can help prevent future fractures and reduce mortality.

Updated on: 03/02/17
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