Unreported vertebral body compression fractures at abdominal multidetector CT

Radiology. 2013 Jul;268(1):120-6. doi: 10.1148/radiol.13121632. Epub 2013 Feb 28.


Purpose: To retrospectively assess the prevalence and clinical outcomes of unreported vertebral compression fractures at abdominal computed tomography (CT).

Materials and methods: This HIPAA-compliant study had institutional review board approval; the need for informed consent was waived for this retrospective analysis. A total of 2041 consecutive adult patients (1640 women, 401 men; age range, 19-94 years) underwent both abdominal multidetector CT and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) within 6 months of each other between 2000 and 2007, before sagittal CT reconstructions were obtained routinely. Transverse (axial) and retrospective sagittal multidetector CT reconstructions were reviewed for the presence of moderate or severe vertebral body compression fractures of the lower thoracic and lumbar spine by using the Genant visual semiquantitative method. Twenty-six patients were excluded for evidence of pathologic fracture or for technical factors limiting compression fracture detection. Electronic medical records were reviewed for patients with moderate or severe compression fractures to determine whether the fracture was reported at prospective CT interpretation, was known previously, or was diagnosed subsequently. Correlation was made with central DXA T scores. Statistical analysis was performed with the Student t test and Fisher exact test.

Results: At least one moderate or severe vertebral body compression fracture was identified retrospectively at CT in 97 patients (mean age, 70.8 years). Fractures involved one level in 67 and multiple levels in 30 patients, for a total of 141 fractures. In 81 (84%) patients, prospective CT diagnosis was not made. Patients in whom fractures were reported prospectively were significantly older and were more likely to have a severe compression fracture (P < .05). In 52 (64%) patients with an unreported fracture, the vertebral compression fracture was not known clinically. In 18 patients, subsequent diagnosis of a compression fracture was determined by means of another imaging study (median interval, 7 months). At DXA, 39 (48%) of 81 patients with unreported vertebral body compression fractures had a nonosteoporotic T score (greater than -2.5).

Conclusion: Most clinically important vertebral body compression fractures in nontrauma patients at risk for low bone mineral density may go unreported at abdominal multidetector CT if sagittal reconstructions are not routinely evaluated.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Fractures, Compression / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiographic Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Fractures / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*