Influence of vertebral fracture assessment by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry on decision-making in osteoporosis: a structured vignette survey

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Objective. Vertebral fracture assessment (VFA) is a radiographic method using DXA to diagnose vertebral fractures, validated for reproducibility, sensitivity and specificity as compared with spine radiographs. This study was designed to assess the impact of VFA results on decision-marking in osteoporosis, using a clinical vignette-based approach.

Methods. Twenty-nine rheumatologists provided data on post-menopausal women consulting for BMD measurement: clinical risk factors for osteoporosis, clinical characteristics of patients, BMD, T-score and VFA images. Standardized clinical vignettes were generated from these patients, and each rheumatologist assessed five vignettes assigned at random, in two distinct steps: first step without and second step with VFA data. At each step, they had to answer questions about the prescription of radiographs and treatments, using a yes/no format.

Results. A total of 117 vignettes were available [117 patients: mean age 65.1 (10.1) years, lumbar spine T-score: −1.64 (0.92)], 36.7% with a personal history of fracture. Rheumatologists intended to prescribe radiographs in 62.4 and 46.2% cases (P = 0.0206) before and after VFA results, respectively; a change occurred in 36.8% of patients, i.e. a de novo prescription of radiographs in 12 patients, and a deleted prescription in 31 patients. VFA data induced a therapeutic change for 30.8% of patients.

Conclusion. This study shows that VFA results influence patient management, both for radiographs and treatment prescriptions.

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