Introduction: Despite the high risk for subsequent fracture following an initial osteoporotic fracture, the majority of subjects with minimal trauma fractures receive no treatment for osteoporosis. The primary aim of this investigation was to determine whether an information-based intervention could change post-fracture management of osteoporosis. A secondary aim was to define participant- and doctor-related barriers to osteoporosis management.
Methods: Consecutive fracture patients (n=254) from the outpatient fracture clinic at St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney were interviewed over a 15-month period (February 2002-July 2003). Fracture risk factors, prior investigation and treatment for osteoporosis were collected at baseline. Participants were initially contacted after 3 months to ascertain follow-up management. All those not investigated or treated by their primary care physician were then randomized to either a personalized letter or the same letter plus an offer of a free bone mineral density (BMD) test. Participants were contacted after 9 months to record further investigations or treatment for osteoporosis.
Results: Less than 20% of the participants had a primary care physician follow-up 3 months after the fracture, leaving 159 who were randomized to a personalized letter (n=79) and a personalized letter plus the offer of a free BMD test (n=80). There was a significant increase in the number of people investigated for osteoporosis in the group receiving the letter plus BMD offer [38% (letter + BMD) vs. 7% (letter only); p=0.001). A high proportion of those tested had low BMD (49% osteopenia and 17% osteoporosis). However, the rates of treatment in both groups were very low (6%). Furthermore, even among the few individuals (23%) who contacted their primary care physician, only 25% were recommended treatment. The belief that the fracture was osteoporotic was an independent predictor of having a BMD test, a primary care physician follow-up and treatment. Other independent predictors were age over 50 years for a primary care physician follow-up, female sex for having a BMD test and having had a BMD test for treatment.
Conclusion: This study demonstrates that an information-based intervention led to a modest increase in the proportion of people investigated for osteoporosis; however. there was no significant effect on treatment rates. The offer of a free BMD assessment was associated with a significantly higher rate of investigation than a personalized letter alone (odds ratio: 8.5; 95% confidence interval: 3.1-24.5), but this investigation did not affect treatment rate. The low uptake of either a BMD or a visit to a primary care physician together with low rates of treatment recommendation even among people who contacted their primary care physician reflects significant participant and doctor-related barriers to osteoporosis management.