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Case Rep Med. 2010;2010:629020. doi: 10.1155/2010/629020. Epub 2010 Apr 21.

Prolonged unilateral disuse osteopenia 14 years post external fixator removal: a case history and critical review.

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College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, Devon EX4 4QL, UK.


Disuse osteopenia is a complication of immobilisation, with reversal generally noted upon remobilisation. This case report focuses on a patient who was seen 18 years following a road traffic collision when multiple fractures were sustained. The patient had an external fixator fitted for a tibia and fibula fracture, which remained in situ for a period of 4 years. Following removal, the patient was mobilised but, still required a single crutch to aid walking. Fourteen years post removal of the fixator, the patient had a DXA scan which, demonstrated a T-score 2.5 SD lower on the affected hip. This places the patient at an increased risk of hip fracture on this side, which requires monitoring. There appear to be no current studies investigating prolonged disuse-osteopenia in patients following removal of long-term external fixators. Further research is required to quantify unilateral long-term effects to bone health and fracture risk in this population.

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