Osteoporosis Knowledge Gaps Increase Risk of Subsequent Fracture

July 7, 2011

The level of osteoporosis knowledge is low among patients with fractures in spite of a high volume of available information.

The level of osteoporosis knowledge is low among patients with fractures in spite of a high volume of available information, according to a study published in a recent issue of The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. Men and non–English-speaking patients who sustain a fracture tend to have the least knowledge, placing them at high risk for a subsequent fracture. In some high-risk groups, the risk of a serious fracture can double after a first fracture. However, many persons who sustain a fracture do not connect it to osteoporosis and do not look at it as a symptom of a more serious medical condition.

Many patients, particularly those who experience hip fractures, are at high risk for premature death or loss of independence after the fracture. The study found that 1 of 4 persons who have an osteoporotic hip fracture will need long-term nursing home care and that the risk of dying within 1 year after the fracture is increased by 24% in persons who experience the trauma of such a fracture.

Other key study findings include the following:

•Patients with fragility fractures know slightly less about osteoporosis than those with other types of fractures.

•Being unemployed, not exercising, and not knowing someone who has osteoporosis are associated with a lower level of knowledge of the disease.

•Patients who receive information from newspapers or magazines know more about osteoporosis than those who receive information solely from their physician.

•Knowing someone with osteoporosis is associated with greater knowledge of the disease.

The study results point to a need to pay special attention to men with fractures to reduce their risk of future fractures. The finding that non–English-speaking patients with fractures know less about osteoporosis may suggest a lack of knowledge among minority populations rather than strictly communication barriers, it was noted. The authors suggested a need for improved patient education and recommended that physicians assess anyone older than 50 years who has had a fragility fracture for osteoporosis. The journal is the official publication of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.