The prevention of fractures caused by fragility associated with osteoporosis requires long-term treatment and, therefore, patients must adhere to their therapy. Many factors have an influence on the decision to initiate and adhere to osteoporosis treatment. In a recently published study, Brask-Lindemann and colleagues  evaluated patient understanding of the results of their diagnosis by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and their beliefs in the effects of therapy, in order to measure what influence this understanding had on their decision to initiate and to persist with osteoporosis therapy.
The study included 1000 consecutive men and women who were referred for DXA scanning by their general practitioner (GP), according to local guidelines, over a period of 14 months. All referrals were reviewed by an endocrinologist to determine whether the patients met the referral criteria and no patients were excluded.
Risk factors, medical history, alcohol consumption and smoking history were assessed through a self-administered questionnaire at the time of the DXA examination. An osteoporosis specialist reviewed the DXA results and risk factor profile and entered these data into a database to diagnose patients, based on the lowest [i]T[/i]-score of the femoral neck and the anterior/posterior lumbar spine, and the presence of low-energy fractures, as being: osteoporotic ([i]T[/i]-score ≤ 2.5 and/or one or more low-energy fractures regardless of the [i]T[/i]-score); osteopenic ([i]T[/i]-scores between -2.5 and -1 SD; or normal ([i]T[/i]-score values above -1 SD).
Standardized information letters were mailed to patients based on this diagnosis, and identical information was communicated electronically to the referring GP. The letters included the diagnosis as well as individual treatment and lifestyle recommendations. All patients were encouraged to discuss the results with their GP, and those who had been diagnosed with osteoporosis were encouraged to talk with their GP in order to initiate treatment. This process did not involve any personal contact between the patient and the osteoporosis specialist. One year after, a questionnaire was mailed to all patients with multiple-choice questions about the DXA test results, health status, follow-up with referring physicians, current and past osteoporosis treatment, and, if they had stopped pharmacotherapy, why they had stopped it. In addition, the perceptions of the patient were measured regarding osteoporosis pharmacotherapy.
Of the 1000 patients who had DXA scans, 717 (72%) responded to the questionnaire. The agreement between self-reported and actual DXA results was very good (κ = 0.83). Of the patients with osteoporosis and osteopenia, 80% correctly reported their diagnosis, and patients with a normal bone mineral density reported the correct diagnosis in 86% of all cases. Of the patients who answered the questionnaire and who reported the correct DXA diagnosis and to whom treatment was recommended, 83% initiated treatment. Of the patients who initiated therapy, 89% were still undergoing treatment 1 year later. The patients who had a better understanding of the benefits of therapy were more likely to initiate treatment (odds ratio (OR) 1.4; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1–1.9; [i]p[/i] = 0.0006) and to persist with therapy after 1 year (OR 1.8; 95% CI 1.2–2.7; [i]p[/i] = 0.006). The authors concluded that patient understanding of their diagnosis may be improved by communicating the results of their diagnosis in writing. This definitely improves osteoporosis management and prevention.
Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Hospital Punta Pacfica, Panama, Republic of Panama
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