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J Clin Densitom. 2000 Fall;3(3):281-90.

Vertebral fractures in osteoporosis: a new method for clinical assessment.

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  • 1Osteoporosis and Arthritis Research Group, Department of Radiology, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0628, USA.


Vertebral fractures are the most common consequence of osteoporosis, and are an important risk factor for subsequent fractures. Patients with reduced bone mineral density (BMD) and vertebral fractures have significantly increased risk for future fractures, indicating great potential for the combined use of fracture assessment and BMD in risk evaluation. Despite the established importance of fractures, however, vertebral assessment is not typically performed in the clinical evaluation of patients at risk for osteoporosis. Radiographs are the accepted standard for assessment of fractures, but are rarely obtained in osteoporosis assessment for a variety of practical reasons, including cost, radiation dose, and the lack of office-based radiological facilities. Clinical assessment of fractures is difficult because most are asymptomatic. Consequently, this strong risk factor for osteoporotic fractures is often overlooked. High-resolution lateral spine images, obtained on advanced fan-beam dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) systems, provide a practical, low-radiation dose, point-of-care methodology for assessment of vertebral fractures, and have the potential to address this important clinical need. In this article, we review the importance of vertebral fractures and the methods of assessing them. We also review clinical data supporting the feasibility of visual evaluation of lateral spine images obtained using a fan-beam DXA system, and discuss the potential positive impact of this new methodology on clinical patient evaluation.

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