After a fracture, reinforce secondary-prevention message
YOUR DOSE OF MEDICINE - Charles C. Chante MD (The Philippine Star) - January 5, 2020 - 12:00am

Ensuring that older adults who have experienced a hip or vertebral fracture understand they likely have osteoporosis, and offering prompt drug treatment for the condition, are among five fundamental recommendations put together by a coalition of US and international bone health experts and health care organizations to help prevent secondary fractures.

Additional fundamental recommendations from the Coalition advised ensuring that patients’ primary health care providers are aware of the fracture, regularly assessing the risk of falls, and routinely reevaluating patients who are being treated for osteoporosis. These suggestions were developed in response to growing evidence of a rising trend in osteoporosis patients not being prescribed appropriate medications or not taking them.

“The very simple message is if you’ve got somebody who has had a hip fracture or a vertebral fracture, that needs secondary prevention just like somebody who’s had an MI needs to be on a statin and a beta blocker,” the fracture because it’s not immediately life-threatening. Down the road they’re going to have another hip fracture if nothing is done.

Only 23 percent of elderly patients who have a hip fracture receive osteoporosis medication to reduce future fracture risk. A 30-year downward trend in the number of hip fractures plateaued, raising concerns this may have been caused by doctors and patients not following diagnostic and treatment guidelines.

The reasons for the plateau are uncertain, but could include a reluctance by patients to take bisphosphonates following some reports of relatively rare side effects, such as atypical femoral fractures and osteonecrosis of the jaw. In addition, reimbursement for dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scans to measure bone mineral density has gone down, which has led to fewer osteoporosis diagnoses. But fracture prevention is important. Of the 300,000 hip fractures in the United States each year, one of every two patients never regains their previous functioning.

In addition, one of every four hip fracture patients ends up in a nursing home or dies within a year. An action plan for clinicians should be added to the site sometime this fall.

There are five fundamental recommendations:

First, communicate three simple messages to patients and their family/caregivers throughout the fracture care and healing process. These include: Their broken bone likely means they have osteoporosis and are at high risk for breaking more bones; breaking bones means they may have to use a walker, cane, or wheelchair or move from their home to a residential facility and will be at higher risk for premature death; and there are actions they can take to reduce their risk.

“If you talk to people who have had a broken bone, they view this as an accident and not that they have anything wrong with them. The communication should be that if you broke something, it is not a random, chance event. You have osteoporosis, and if you don’t do anything about it, you’re going to be at great risk of a life-threatening, independence-threatening fracture in the future.”

Second, ensure the patient’s primary health care provider is made aware of the occurrence of the fracture. Take action to be sure the communication is made.

Third, regularly assess the risk of falling in women and men age 65 years or older who have had a hip or vertebral fracture. At minimum, take a history of falls within the last year, minimize the use of medications associated with increased risk for falls, evaluate patients for conditions associated with an increased risk for falls, and strongly consider referring patients to physical and/or occupational therapy or a physiatrist for evaluation and interventions to improve impairments in mobility, gait, and balance to reduce the risk for falls.

Fourth, reduce the risk of additional fractures by offering pharmacologic therapy for osteoporosis to women and men age 65 years or older who have had a hip or vertebral fracture. This can begin in the hospital and be included in discharge orders. Do not delay initiation of therapy for bone mineral density (BMD) testing. Consider patients’ oral health before starting therapy with bisphosphonates or denosumab (Prolia).

Most hip fracture patients leave the hospital without osteoporosis medications. It could be that hospital-based physicians are concerned patients are still unsteady such that they may not want to start patients on a new medication when they’re discharging them. Physicians in rehabilitation units may not prescribe these medications because they feel they have the patients for a short time, so by the time the patient returns to their primary care provider, the patient may have the same mistaken impression the fracture was an accident.

“We’re advocating not to delay treatment for any of these care transitions or because you think they need a BMD test,” “Just get them treated like they do with heart attacks.”

Finally, follow and reevaluate women and men age 65 years or older who have had a hip or vertebral fracture and are being treated for osteoporosis because it is a life-long chronic condition. This can help reinforce key messages about osteoporosis and associated fractures, identify any barriers to treatment adherence, assess the risk of falls, evaluate the effectiveness of a treatment plan, monitor for adverse effects, and determine whether any changes in treatment should be made, including whether any osteoporosis pharmacotherapy should be changed or discontinued.

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