Background: There is a large quality of care gap for patients with osteoporosis. As a fragility fracture is a strong indicator of underlying osteoporosis, it offers an ideal opportunity to initiate investigation and treatment. However, studies of post-fracture populations document screening and treatment rates below 20% in most settings. This is despite the fact that bone mineral density (BMD) scans are effective at identifying patients at high risk of fracture, and effective drug treatments are widely available. Effective interventions are required to remedy this incongruity in current practice.
Methods: This study reviewed randomised controlled trials (RCT) involving fully qualified healthcare professionals caring for patients with a fragility fracture in all healthcare settings. Any intervention designed to modify the behaviour of healthcare professionals or implement a service delivery change was considered. The main outcomes were BMD scanning and osteoporosis treatment with anti-resorptive therapy. The electronic databases Medline and Embase were searched from 1994 to June 2010 to identify relevant articles in English. Post-intervention risk differences (RDs) were calculated for the main outcomes and any additional study primary outcomes; the trials were meta-analysed.
Results: A total of 2814 potentially relevant articles were sifted; 18 were assessed in full text. Nine RCTs evaluating ten interventions met the inclusion criteria for the review. All were from North America. Four studies focused on patients with a hip fracture, three on fractures of the wrist/distal forearm, and two included several fracture sites consistent with a fragility fracture. All studies reported positive effects of the intervention for the main study outcomes of BMD scanning and osteoporosis treatment. For BMD scanning the overall risk ratio (95% CI) was 2.8 (2.16 to 3.64); the RD was 36% (21% to 50%). For treatment with anti-resorptive therapy the overall risk ratio (95% CI) was 2.48 (1.92 to 3.2); the RD was 20% (10% to 30%).
Conclusions: All interventions produced positive effects on BMD scanning and osteoporosis treatment rates post-fracture. Despite sizeable increases, investigation and treatment rates remain sub-optimal. Long-term compliance with osteoporosis medications needs to be addressed, as the majority of studies reported treatment rates at six-month follow up only. Studies would be more informative if treatment criteria were defined a priori to facilitate understanding of whether patients were being treated appropriately and integrated economic analyses would be helpful for informing policy implementation decisions.