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J Public Health Med. 2000 Dec;22(4):466-72.

An audit of current clinical practice in the management of osteoporosis in Nottingham.

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  • 1Ageing and Disability Research Unit, Medical School, Queen's Medical Centre, University Hospital, Nottingham.



Osteoporosis is now recognized by the World Health Organization and the Department of Health as a major public health problem. In 1994, the Advisory Group on Osteoporosis (AGO), set up by the Department of Health, recommended that Health Authorities and general practitioner fundholders should purchase bone densitometry services for the management of osteoporosis. The aims of this study were to assess the criteria for requests for bone densitometry from primary care in comparison with the AGO recommendations and to compare the numbers of patients referred with a low-trauma osteoporotic fracture with the expected number of fractures in the Nottingham area.


Patient referral data and requests for bone densitometry were collected by case note review of all new patients referred to the Nottingham Osteoporosis Clinic over a 12 month period and then compared with the AGO recommendations. The patients referred with a history of a low-trauma fracture were then compared with the expected incidence of fractures, calculated using age-sex-specific fracture incidence data applied to the Nottingham population Census statistics.


A total of 413 patients were referred to the Osteoporosis Clinic for bone densitometry. Almost two-thirds of the patients had no clinical indicators for requests for scanning, in comparison with the AGO recommendations. Seventy-seven patients were referred with vertebral fracture, 12 hip, 20 colles and 26 other fractures. Using age-sex-specific fracture incidence data applied to the Nottingham population Census statistics, it was estimated that the expected incidence of hip fractures would be 812, distal forearm fractures 514 and vertebral fractures presenting to clinical attention 625. This represents 1.5 per cent of the total hip fractures, 3.9 per cent distal forearm and 12.3 per cent vertebral actually presenting to the Osteoporosis Clinic.


Bone densitometry was requested in up to 60 per cent of the patients with no clinical risk factors to warrant bone densitometry. Osteoporosis-related fractures remain unrecognized in clinical practice. The majority of patients do not receive specialist assessment despite being at high risk of future fracture. Further steps are necessary to educate health care professionals in primary and secondary care, but more importantly, to direct services more proactively in those at high risk of future fracture.

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