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Identifying and managing osteoporosis: a role for nurses

02 May 2023
Volume 34 · Issue 5


Osteoporosis is the most common metabolic bone disease that will be encountered by nurses in both primary and community care. Ashley Hawarden and Zoe Paskins look at how the condition can be managed in a primary care setting

Osteoporosis is the most common metabolic bone disease. Primary care nurses play an essential role in both primary and secondary prevention of osteoporosis. In this article Ashley Hawarden and Zoe Paskins will provide an overview of osteoporosis, investigation and management and provide guidance for when to refer for specialist advice.

Osteoporosis is a condition of weak bones which are more likely to break, after little, or no trauma. It is defined as a ‘progressive systemic skeletal disease characterized by low bone mass and microarchitectural deterioration of bone tissue, with a consequent increase in bone fragility and susceptibility to fracture’. (Peck 1993) Osteoporosis is an asymptomatic condition and so often goes unrecognised until the clinical consequence of fragility fracture occurs. Fragility fractures are fractures that occur from mechanical forces which would not ordinarily result in a fracture – known as low-energy trauma (e.g. a fall from standing height). In the UK, there are approximately 549,000 fragility fractures each year with a cost to the NHS in excess of £4.7 billion per annum. (Borgström, F. et al, 2020) The most common sites for fragility fracture are the hip, pelvis, vertebrae, wrist and humerus. Fragility fractures can be life-altering events with wide ranging biopsychosocial consequences including pain, deformity, disability, loss of confidence and independence.

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