Fractures costing pain and billions each year
The brittle bones of Australians in NSW and ACT aged 50+ is expected to cost $1.1 billion in 2017.
Release of the reports coincided with the launch of the independent SOS Fracture Alliance – Australia’s first national alliance of 30 medical, allied health, patient and consumer organisations focusing on the prevention of osteoporotic fractures.
“A broken bone is usually a sign that we need to take action to prevent more bone loss, as each fracture significantly raises the risk of a further fracture,” said Osteoporosis Australia Medical Director, Professor Peter Ebeling AO.
“Four-out-of-five Australians treated for an osteoporotic fracture are not tested for osteoporosis, and therefore, are not offered treatment for osteoporosis. There is a significant gap in osteoporosis care, and our hospitals are becoming revolving doors for fracture patients being sent home, and returning with new fractures, rather than being properly assessed and treated for osteoporosis.”
It is estimated that in 2017 there will be 155 fractures each day among older people in NSW & ACT.
Retired business consultant, Carole, 63, Glenning Valley, Central Coast NSW, was diagnosed with osteopenia – a precursor to osteoporosis or brittle bones – in 2004, just after her 50th birthday.
The news came as a huge shock to Carole, who had long subscribed to a healthy diet and exercise.
Carole has since sustained multiple bone fractures, including an excruciating fracture of several vertebrae in her lower spine, some compressing up to 60 per cent, resulting in a loss of five centimetres in height, and has had to learn to walk again to accommodate her new spinal alignment.
This is Carole’s story.
“I was shocked to receive the results [of my initial diagnosis] because I’ve always maintained such a healthy, active lifestyle. For years I’ve attended the gym, eaten well and worked hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
“I also have no known family history of the disease, and I had minimal understanding of the disease back then – I mistakenly thought it was only a disease of the elderly. I never thought someone of my age could develop osteopenia,” said Carole.
After being diagnosed with osteopenia by her endocrinologist, Carole immediately commenced medication, various forms of which she has since tried.
Post- diagnosis, Carole spent the ensuing 10 years moving in and out of hospital emergency departments after fracturing multiple bones, including her wrist, ribs and sternum – each of which was treated as an individual break. During this period, she grew increasingly wary of sustaining further injury and bone re-fracture.
On March 17, 2015, while simply cleaning out a garden drain, Carole was startled by a lizard that jumped from her deck onto her shoulder. She jolted suddenly in response to the reptile.
This minor incident spurred a long and painful venture for Carole who, not long after, began to experience pain in her groin. After visiting her GP for professional advice, Carole was subsequently referred to several specialists who further examined her, searching for clues in her bowel, intestine and for other potential causes of the pain. In the interim, Carole continued to writhe in pain for three months.
On May 27, 2015, she was hospitalised for treatment to clean her intestines, and was discharged two days later.
The following Tuesday however, still in excruciating pain, Carole visited her GP and was referred to a back specialist, a gastroenterologist and a gynaecologist. After visiting the gynaecologist the following day, Carole was immediately admitted to hospital.
The hospital’s gastroenterologist performed some scans which revealed she had fractures in her spine and compression of up to 60 per cent in several vertebrae – the actual source of her ongoing, severe pain.
Carole spent the following three months hospitalised.
“It was an extremely debilitating and painful time for me, and it has really impacted upon my life in so many ways.
“My life has changed dramatically because of the fractures I’ve sustained.
“My bones have to be monitored very closely now, and I need to be very careful when performing simple, daily tasks, such as preparing a meal, hanging out washing, weeding the garden, or lifting relatively light weights, which could prove disastrous to my spine,” said Carole.
The SOS Fracture Alliance is seeking to increase national recognition of first fractures in people with undiagnosed osteoporosis, to make their first break their last.
7 July 2017.