New secondary fracture–prevention recommendations carry simple messages



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 U.S. and international bone health experts and health care organizations to help prevent secondary fractures.

The recommendations were announced at the annual meeting of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) in Montreal. The 40-member group that developed the recommendations, called the ASBMR Secondary Fracture Prevention Initiative Coalition, includes the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists/American College of Endocrinology, the Endocrine Society, the American College of Rheumatology, the American College of Physicians, the American Geriatrics Society, the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

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 ASBMR said.

Dr. Sundeep Khosla, director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Science at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

Dr. Sundeep Khosla

“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,” said coalition cochair Sundeep Khosla, MD, a past president of the ASBMR and director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Science at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. “You can’t ignore 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% of elderly patients who have a hip fracture receive osteoporosis medication to reduce future fracture risk, according to the ASBMR. A 30-year downward trend in the number of hip fractures in the United States has recently plateaued, raising concerns this may have been caused by doctors and patients not following diagnostic and treatment guidelines, the organization noted.

The reasons for the plateau are uncertain, Dr. Khosla said, 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, he said, 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, he said. 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, according to the ASBMR.

The recommendations and more data about osteoporosis treatment are available on the coalition’s website, An action plan for clinicians should be added to the site sometime this fall, Dr. Khosla said.

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.

Dr. Douglas P. Kiel, director of the Musculoskeletal Research Center at the Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, both in Boston

Dr. Douglas P. Kiel

This is key, said coalition cochair Douglas P. Kiel, MD, a past president of ASBMR, the director of the Musculoskeletal Research Center at the Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, also in Boston.

“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,” he said. “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, Dr. Kiel said. 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,” Dr. Kiel said. “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.

Ideally, patients should be managed in the context of a multidisciplinary clinical system that includes case management, such as a fracture liaison service, according to the recommendations.

Besides the fundamental five recommendations, the documents lists another seven that deal with referring patients, prescribing vitamin D, counseling on lifestyle and diet, discussing pharmacotherapy benefits and risks, weighing first-line therapy options, and determining the duration of pharmacotherapy.

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