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Weaver FM, Etingen B, Guihan M, Ray C, Priebe M, Burns S, Carbone L. Spinal cord injury providers' perspectives on managing sublesional osteoporosis. The journal of spinal cord medicine. 2020 Jul 1; 43(4):428-434.
Persons with spinal cord injuries (SCI) experience rapid sublesional bone loss following injury (1, 3). Evidence on preventing/managing osteoporosis in SCI is lacking. This project examined how providers manage bone loss in SCI. Telephone interviews with SCI providers. VA SCI centers and clinics. Veterans Administration SCI centers and clinics were categorized on their average number of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans (FY2014-2016). Twelve SCI providers from high and low DXA-ordering sites were interviewed. Questions included osteoporosis screening/diagnosis, prevention/treatment strategies, secondary causes of osteoporosis, and osteoporotic fracture complications. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed. Providers described a lack of standardized guidelines for managing osteoporosis in SCI. They most often screened for osteoporosis using DXA when: (1) considering use of a new device or activity, (2) for patients with a history of fracture. Some providers assumed that non-ambulatory SCI patients already have osteoporosis so infrequently ordered DXAs. Assessment of secondary causes of osteoporosis was uncommon. Fracture prevention strategies identified included weight-bearing and engaging in activities like adaptive sports. Vitamin D and calcium were frequently prescribed as a result of deficiencies identified during lab testing. Providers seldom prescribed FDA-approved medications for osteoporosis. Post-fracture complications encountered included nonunion/malunion and compartment syndrome. Providers indicated that patients often experienced psychological stress, anxiety and depression following fractures. Providers described a lack of evidence for screening and management of patients with SCI and osteoporosis. Future efforts should include developing evidence-informed guidelines to aid providers in osteoporosis management.