Surgeon Specialty Influences Referral Rate for Osteoporosis Management following Vertebral Compression Fractures

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Study Design

Retrospective chart review.


To evaluate the referral rate for long-term osteoporosis management following vertebral compression fracture treated by different specialties at a single academic institution.


Patients undergoing vertebral cement augmentation for painful osteoporotic compression fractures from 2009 to 2014 were identified. Medical records were reviewed to determine if the treating surgeon discussed and/or referred the patient for long-term osteoporosis management. Any referral for or mention of medical long-term osteoporosis management was counted as a positive response. Results were statistically analyzed with chi-square test.


Two hundred fourteen patients underwent vertebral cement augmentation; 150 met inclusion criteria. Orthopedic surgeons treated 88 patients, neurosurgeons treated 39, and interventional radiology or pain management physicians treated 23. Orthopedic surgeons referred 82% of patients for osteoporosis management, neurosurgeons referred 36%, and interventional radiology/pain management referred 17%. The referral rate was significantly higher for orthopedic surgeons compared with either of the other two groups; there was no significant difference between neurosurgery and interventional radiology/pain management.


Among physicians who treat osteoporotic vertebral compression fractures, orthopedic surgeons more frequently address osteoporosis or refer patients for osteoporosis management compared with neurosurgeons and interventional radiologists or pain management physicians. The results of this study shed light on the disparity in how different specialties approach treatment of osteoporosis in patients with fractures painful enough to require surgery and highlight potential areas for improvement in osteoporosis awareness training.

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