Preventing fractures, saving lives

Posted on in Hospitals, Services

More patients are being tested and treated for osteoporosis at the earliest opportunity thanks to the introduction of South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s fracture liaison service.

Osteoporosis team

Consultant physician Thant Oo, consultant in elderly care Pratibha Tryambake, specialist nurse Anne Tate and consultant rheumatologist Stephen Tuck (left to right)

Back in 2005 only 25% of female and 6% of male hip fracture patients at the trust aged over 75 were treated for osteoporosis. But over the past seven years that figure has soared to 94%.

“These figures are as good as the best in the country,” said rheumatologist Dr Stephen Tuck. “And well above the national average of 69%.

“Patients are now getting treatment as early as possible so we are preventing more fractures from developing and saving lives.”

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become weak and fragile and more likely to break.

There are often no warning signs for osteoporosis until someone experiences a fracture, often after a relatively minor fall, but it can be easily diagnosed using a Dexa scan – a type of x-ray that measures bone density.

One in two women and one in five men aged over 50 will suffer an osteoporotic fracture, but once a patient is diagnosed there are a range of treatments available to increase bone strength and prevent more fractures occurring.

In 2005 the trust’s rheumatology team joined forces with its orthopaedics, elderly care and falls teams to create new pathways of care to identify more at risk patients.

A fracture liaison service with its own specialist nurse was then launched in 2010 with the aim of testing everyone over 50 – across all services at the trust – who suffered a low trauma fracture. Orthogeriatricians were also appointed to see all those over 70 who suffered a hip fracture.

As a result 94% of hip fracture patients and 97% of all fracture patients over 50 are now identified and tested, ensuring patients are diagnosed at the earliest opportunity which could even help save lives as statistics show that one in five people die within 12 months of having a hip fracture.

Dr Tuck said: “This means that in the future we should see a reduction in the number of fractures we treat which is good news for patients and will also help free up bed space in our hospitals.

“It’s been a great team effort and I would like to thank everyone involved for their hard work including the falls team, elderly care consultants Jennifer Gedge and Miranda Tay, orthopaedic consultant Tony Hoi, fracture liaison nurse Monica Clarke, specialist hip fracture nurse Anne Tate and GP Henry Waters, head of NHS South Tees Clinical Commissioning Group, who pushed the changes forward in primary care.”