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Osteoporosis not mentioned after broken bones

Survey reveals risk factors for osteoporosis not picked up by clinicians

Ingrid Torjesen

Monday, 27 June 2011

Seventy per cent of people who break a bone do not discuss osteoporosis with a health professional, and a further 8% had to raise the subject before it was discussed, a survey by the National Osteoporosis Society has found.

A staggering 26% of respondents were only diagnosed after suffering multiple fractures. In addition, 35% had to wait more than a year after breaking a bone before being diagnosed and 22% had to wait more than five years.

The findings from a survey of over 700 people with osteoporosis, carried out to mark the 25th anniversary of the charity, highlight disturbing failures in the care of people with fragile bones and predict spiralling human and economic costs.

The Society’s report on the findings says that many people with osteoporosis are suffering unnecessarily because they are not being identified despite breaking bones or having common risk factors.

A simple risk factor assessment can alert people to the possibility of future fractures and prompt preventative steps against osteoporosis, but 86% of those surveyed did not have an assessment or discussion about their risk factors for osteoporosis prior to a diagnosis. The survey also found that 63% did not realise they were at risk of fragile bones before diagnosis, despite the majority having easily identifiable risk factors.

Claire Severgnini, chief executive of the National Osteoporosis Society said: “The last 25 years has seen improvements but there are still too many people with fragile bones who are not receiving basic services and care. If someone has risk factors, like a parental history of hip fracture, or if they break a bone following a minor bump or fall, it should prompt a simple investigation and appropriate treatment.

“Service models exist which can save the NHS money by assessing patients and preventing costly broken bones. These simple solutions could drastically reduce suffering, save lives and cut costs for the NHS, yet people are being left to fracture again and again. It is astonishing that basic care is still not happening universally.”

Looking ahead to the next 25 years, the charity’s report shows that by 2036, hip fracture rates in men could match women because they have risen by 77% in the last decade.

It adds that if preventative strategies are not improved in the next quarter century there could be as many as 140,000 hospital admissions for hip fracture a year in the UK - an increase of 57%. This means that the cost of treating and caring for hip fractures in the UK could top £6 billion (currently £2 billion).

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