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Radiographers failing to report all vertebral fractures

Tuesday 26th September 2017
Radiographers are underreporting vertebral fragility fractures in patients with osteoporosis, a new study has found. Image: horillaz via iStock
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Radiographers and radiologists are failing to report all cases of vertebral fragility fractures (VFFs) in their patients, which could be having an adverse impact on their long-term recovery.

According to a new study from researchers at the University of Oxford, many hip fracture patients with osteoporosis are found to have previously suffered VFFs when they are X-rayed, but this often hasn't been reported on their notes.

As a result, this raises the question of whether or not the two injuries can be linked and if prompt reporting could have potentially prevented further pain and future fractures.

Of 157 hip fracture patients aged 50 and above who had undergone a radiological procedure in the past, 65 (41 per cent) were found to have suffered a VFF. However, only 30 (46 per cent) of these fractures had been reported by the radiographer or radiologist.

This therefore raises concerns that a significant number of patients may have been left in unnecessary pain. Failing to make them or other healthcare professionals aware of their VFF could have caused people with osteoporosis, who are already in a lot of pain, unnecessary distress.

With this in mind, radiologists and radiographers need to make sure they are reporting all VFFs and other fractures - regardless of how minor they are - in patients' notes so they can begin to receive the best possible support and treatment for their individual needs.

Co-author of the study Ruth M Mitchell commented: "It is essential that radiologists are vigilant for the presence of VFFs on routine imaging, particularly in older patients.

"Equally important is having an effective referral system in place to ensure these patients, once identified, are directed to fracture prevention services.

"We believe that, together, this will increase the number of patients receiving effective osteoporosis therapy, protecting against future hip fractures and the associated mortality, morbidity and cost."

Written by Megan Smith

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