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Prevalence of thoracolumbar vertebral fractures on multidetector CT: underreporting by radiologists

Tommaso Bartalena, Giovanni Giannelli, Maria Francesca Rinaldi, Eugenio Rimondi, Giovanni Rinaldi, Nicola Sverzellati, Giampaolo Gavelli
European Journal of Radiology 2009, 69 (3): 555-9

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the prevalence of osteoporotic vertebral fractures in patients undergoing multidetector computed tomography (MDCT) of the chest and/or abdomen.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: 323 consecutive patients (196 males, 127 females) with a mean age of 62.6 years (range 20-88) who had undergone chest and/or abdominal MDCT were evaluated. Sagittal reformats of the spine obtained from thin section datasets were reviewed by two radiologists and assessed for vertebral fractures. Morphometric analysis using electronic calipers was performed on vertebral bodies which appeared abnormal upon visual inspection. A vertebral body height loss of 15% or more was considered a fracture and graded as mild (15-24%), moderate (25-49%) or severe (more than 50%). Official radiology reports were reviewed and whether the vertebral fractures had been reported or not was noted.

RESULTS: 31 out of 323 patients (9.5%) had at least 1 vertebral fracture and 7 of those patients had multiple fractures for a total of 41 fractures. Morphometric grading revealed 10 mild, 16 moderate and 15 severe fractures. Prevalence was higher in women (14.1%) than men (6.6%) and increased with patients age with a 17.1% prevalence in post-menopausal women. Only 6 out 41 vertebral fractures (14.6%) had been noted in the radiology final report while the remaining 35 (85.45) had not.

CONCLUSION: although vertebral fractures represent frequent incidental findings on multidetector CT studies and may be easily identified on sagittal reformats, they are often underreported by radiologists, most likely because of unawareness of their clinical importance.

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