Vertebral fractures often go unnoticed, while they constitute a significant risk factor for new fractures, independent of the bone density. Vertebral Fracture Assessment (VFA) is a new feature on DXA bone densitometry equipment. Our purpose was to determine the added value of VFA and its impact on the Canadian fracture risk classification using data from a Dutch academic cohort.
All 958 consecutive patients (64% female, mean age 53 [20–94], mean weight 75 kg [32–150]) who underwent BMD measurement at the University Medical Center Groningen, The Netherlands also underwent VFA in the same session.
The prevalence of vertebral fractures was 26%. In 68% of these patients this fracture was unknown. The severity was “mild” (20%–25% height loss) in 43%, “moderate” (25%–35%) in 44% and “severe” (>35% height loss) in 13%. Even after excluding mild fractures, the prevalence of vertebral fractures was 17%. In the 28% with normal BMD the vertebral fracture prevalence was still 18%, in the 43% with osteopenia 23%, and in the 29% with osteoporosis 36%. The Canadian risk classification was “low fracture risk” in 68%, “moderate” in 19%, and “high” in 13%. Adding VFA altered the classification in 20% of the patients, to become 54%, 27%, and 19%, respectively.
VFA added to BMD is a patient friendly diagnostic tool with a high diagnostic yield, as it detected unknown vertebral fractures and altered diagnostic classification in approximately 1 out of every 5 patients. These results suggest that BMD plus VFA may become the new standard in osteoporosis testing.