Is it really just a fracture?

A new clinic at St. Joseph's Hospital targets early detection for osteoporosis

Tis’ the season for slips, falls and fractures. But is it really just a fracture? For those over age 50 a broken wrist from what appears to be a mundane mishap may actually be a sign of something more significant. 

Dr. Lisa-Ann FraserEvery year many Canadians needlessly suffer fractures because their osteoporosis goes undiagnosed and untreated, says Dr. Lisa-Ann Fraser, medical director of the Osteoporosis and Bone Disease Program of St. Joseph’s Health Care London. At least one in three women and one in five men will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture during their lifetime. In fact, fractures from osteoporosis are more common than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined, according to Osteoporosis Canada. 

Yet patients who present to hospitals with the kind of fractures that raise a red flag for osteoporosis are often not assessed for the condition or receive proper treatment, says Dr. Fraser. “Less than 50 per cent of Canadian women and 10 per cent of Canadian men who experience a fragility fracture get put on treatment for underlying osteoporosis.”

For individuals over age 50, the warning sign that osteoporosis may be present is when a fracture occurs after a fall from standing height or less, explains Dr. Fraser. “The first fracture is often a broken wrist but other, more serious fractures include breaks of the hip, pelvis, humerus (shoulder), ribs and vertebrae (spine). More than 80 per cent of all fractures in women over age 50 are caused by osteoporosis.”

To tackle this issue, St. Joseph’s has created a monthly post-fracture osteoporosis assessment clinic – a partnership between the Osteoporosis and Bone Disease Program and St. Joseph’s Roth | McFarlane Hand and Upper Limb Centre.  All individuals over age 50 who have presented at the Roth | McFarlane Centre within the previous month with a non-traumatic fracture (caused by a fall from standing height or less) will be referred for a bone mineral density scan and then seen by an osteoporosis expert at the clinic. Patients will also receive education about bone health and appropriate osteoporosis treatment if needed. 

“The Roth | McFarlane Hand and Upper Limb Centre and Osteoporosis Canada have had a partnership for many years where we screen for such patients and link back to family physicians,” says orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Darren Drosdowech.  “This new program will strengthen our approach by referral of post fracture patients directly to our St. Joseph’s osteoporosis clinic.”

The purpose is to change the standard of care for those at high risk of osteoporosis, explains Dr. Fraser.  “Osteoporosis has huge ramifications – pain, suffering, even a shortened lifespan – but with the right treatment, osteoporotic fractures can be prevented.”

Dr. Lisa-Ann Fraser and an osteo patient

Back to Stories