Recommendations on screening for primary prevention of fragility fractures Academic Article uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: Fragility fractures are a major health concern for older adults and can result in disability, admission to hospital and long-term care, and reduced quality of life. This Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (task force) guideline provides evidence-based recommendations on screening to prevent fragility fractures in community-dwelling individuals aged 40 years and older who are not currently on preventive pharmacotherapy. METHODS: We commissioned systematic reviews on benefits and harms of screening, predictive accuracy of risk assessment tools, patient acceptability and benefits of treatment. We analyzed treatment harms via a rapid overview of reviews. We further examined patient values and preferences via focus groups and engaged stakeholders at key points throughout the project. We used the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach to determine the certainty of evidence for each outcome and strength of recommendations, and adhered to Appraisal of Guidelines for Research and Evaluation (AGREE), Guidelines International Network and Guidance for Reporting Involvement of Patients and the Public (GRIPP-2) reporting guidance. RECOMMENDATIONS: We recommend "risk assessment-first" screening for prevention of fragility fractures in females aged 65 years and older, with initial application of the Canadian clinical Fracture Risk Assessment Tool (FRAX) without bone mineral density (BMD). The FRAX result should be used to facilitate shared decision-making about the possible benefits and harms of preventive pharmacotherapy. After this discussion, if preventive pharmacotherapy is being considered, clinicians should request BMD measurement using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) of the femoral neck, and re-estimate fracture risk by adding the BMD T-score into FRAX (conditional recommendation, low-certainty evidence). We recommend against screening females aged 40-64 years and males aged 40 years and older (strong recommendation, very low-certainty evidence). These recommendations apply to community-dwelling individuals who are not currently on pharmacotherapy to prevent fragility fractures. INTERPRETATION: Risk assessment-first screening for females aged 65 years and older facilitates shared decision-making and allows patients to consider preventive pharmacotherapy within their individual risk context (before BMD). Recommendations against screening males and younger females emphasize the importance of good clinical practice, where clinicians are alert to changes in health that may indicate the patient has experienced or is at higher risk of fragility fracture.


  • Thériault, Guylène
  • Limburg, Heather
  • Klarenbach, Scott
  • Reynolds, Donna L
  • Riva, John
  • Thombs, Brett D
  • Tessier, Laure A
  • Grad, Roland
  • Wilson, Brenda J

publication date

  • May 8, 2023

published in