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8th Combined Meeting Of Orthopaedic Research Societies (CORS)


Summary Statement

It is now possible to diagnose osteoporosis using incidental CT scans; this approach has been used to objectively demonstrate the role of osteoporosis in fracture in ankylosing spondylitis patients.


In advanced disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is frequently associated with a reduction in bone mineral density (BMD), this contributes to pain and predisposes to fractures. Quantifying this reduction in BMD is complicated by the simultaneous processes occurring, in which there is both an overgrowth of bone (syndesmophytes) and a concurrent loss of trabecular bone. Traditional methods such as dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) struggle to generate accurate estimates for BMD in these patients. It has recently become possible to diagnose osteoporosis, with a high sensitivity and specificity, using incidental CT scans of the L1 vertebra. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the use of opportunistic CT screening in the diagnosis of osteoporosis in patients with AS who had sustained vertebral fractures.

Patients & Methods

Following Institutional review board approval, patients with AS who presented, with acute fractures of the spine, to our facility between 2004 and 2013 were reviewed to assess whether or not they had a Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the abdomen on admission or in the 6 months before or after injury. In addition, patients were also required to have signs of advanced AS such as the presence of syndesmophytes and syndesmophyte bridging; patients with fractures through L1 were excluded. Of those fitting the criteria, a region of Interest (ROI) was generated over the body of L1, Hounsfield unit (HU) were then measured.


Of the 42 patients reviewed, a total of 17 AS patients fit the above criteria. 15 were male and 2 were female, mean age of the whole cohort was 69.9years (range 22–85; SD 15.9). Using a threshold balanced for sensitivity and specificity (<135 HU) which differentiates between osteopenia and osteporosis, 14 (82%) patients were found to have a BMD less than 135HU; a higher threshold (<160 HU) with 90 % sensitivity for differentiating osteoporosis from osteopenia was applied to the group, and 15 patients (88%) were found to be osteoporotic. Of note all the females in the study were osteoporotic.

Discussion and Conclusion

This study demonstrates, for the first time, using opportunistic CT screening, that a high proportion of AS patients who sustain fractures have osteoporosis; this overcomes the difficulties that have been encountered with the use of DXA in this unique group of patients. This simple and accessible method saves on excess cost and exposure to radiation. With a high sensitivity, patients identified using this method can then be managed more proactively. We believe these data have the potential to significantly impact the day to day management of patients with spondyloarthropathies.