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Wrist Fracture: Early Osteoporosis Sign

October 2, 2009
According to a study published in the October 2009 issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, physicians treating women with wrist fractures fail to have them tested for osteoporosis the way they do when the fracture is in the hip or spine. The study, conducted in 2007 among 97 percent of the women in Korea, reviewed the incidence of fractures around the hip, spine, and wrist in women 50 and older and how often bone density scans for osteoporosis and the medications for its treatment were prescribed. "Our review indicates that patients with a wrist fracture are less likely to be evaluated and managed for osteoporosis than those with a hip or spine fracture," says lead author Hyunsik Gong, MD, of the department of orthopedic surgery, Seoul National University. "Although the health system in the United States is different from that in Korea, physicians treating fractures are the initiators of osteoporosis care in both countries. Women over age 50 diagnosed with a wrist fracture should be evaluated for osteoporosis, since they have a higher risk of fracturing other bones." The distal radius of the wrist is the most commonly broken bone in the arm, and fractures usually happen when a fall causes someone to land on their outstretched hands. Appropriate treatment can reduce the risk of future fracture in patients with osteoporosis by 40 to 60 percent. Yet the study found that for women over the age of 50 only 2.8 percent of those with a wrist fracture had a bone mineral density scan and only 22.9 percent were prescribed osteoporosis medication. Says Dr. Gong, "Because patients with a wrist fracture are younger on the average than those with a hip or vertebral fracture, they offer physicians an important opportunity to initiate secondary prevention. We find it disappointing that many orthopedic and hand surgeons who treat wrist fractures choose not to provide osteoporosis evaluation and treatment when, in our opinion, they should do so."