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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2004 Feb;182(2):297-300.

Underreporting of vertebral fractures on routine chest radiography.

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Department of Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada.



Osteoporosis is underdiagnosed and therefore undertreated. We determined the potential usefulness of chest radiography for detecting clinically important vertebral fractures by performing semiquantitative reviews and quantitative digital morphometry on 100 routine chest radiographs taken in the emergency department and comparing the yield of these independent reviews with official radiology reports.


One hundred randomly selected chest radiographs of patients 60 years or older who presented to the emergency department of a tertiary care hospital were evaluated. Radiographs were selected without knowledge of the presenting complaint and were independently reviewed by two board-certified radiologists and a radiology resident. A validated semiquantitative method was used to assess lateral chest radiographs for vertebral fracture. In addition, quantitative digital morphometry was undertaken. A clinically important vertebral fracture was defined as one that was at least moderate to severe (loss of height >or=> 25%).


Mean age of the population was 75 years, 47% were women, and 46% were admitted to the hospital. According to the reference radiologist, prevalence of moderate to severe vertebral fractures was 22%. Simple agreement was 87-88% among reviewers; kappa values were moderate (0.56-0.58). The greatest agreement was between the reference standard radiologist and quantitative digital morphometry (89% agreement; kappa = 0.67). Only 55% (12/22) of vertebral fractures we identified were mentioned in the official radiology reports.


Chest radiography has potential as a screening tool for revealing previously undiagnosed vertebral fractures, although in this study only half of moderate to severe fractures that we identified were mentioned in official reports.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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