Background: Vertebral fractures are underdiagnosed, although the resulting mortality and morbidity in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis is now recognised. In a population of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis and back pain, symptoms may be related to vertebral fractures or degenerative changes of the spine.
Aim: To evaluate a population of postmenopausal women presenting with back pain and factors associated with vertebral fractures which were assessable in a clinical setting in order to determine the necessity for spine radiography.
Methods: Patient questioning and physical examination were carried out and spinal radiographic data collected from 410 postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, with an average age of 74 years, who consulted a rheumatologist for back pain. Of these, 215 (52.4%) patients were diagnosed with at least one vertebral fracture. Logistic regression was used to identify the most relevant clinical features associated with existing vertebral fractures, and to derive a quantitative index of risk.
Results: The model included six parameters: age, back pain intensity, height loss, history of low trauma non-vertebral fractures, thoracic localisation of back pain and sudden occurrence of back pain. The scoring system, or the quantitative index, had a maximal score of 16. For a score ⩾7, the probability of existing vertebral fracture was ⩾43%. The correlation between this quantitative index and the logistic model probability was 0.98, suggesting an excellent and highly significant approximation of the original prediction equation.
Conclusions: : From six clinical items, an index was built to identify women with osteoporosis and back pain who should have spine radiography. This simple tool may help clinicians to optimise vertebral fracture diagnosis and to make a proper therapeutic decision.
- BMD, bone mineral density
- EPOS, European Prospective Osteoporosis Study
- VAS, visual analogue scale
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Published Online First 22 June 2006
Competing interests: None declared.