Course Case Studies

Osteoporosis: Diagnosis and Management

Course #99143 - $25 • 5 Hours/Credits

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  • Participation Instructions
    • Review the course material online or in print.
    • Complete the course evaluation.
    • Review your Transcript to view and print your Certificate of Completion. Your date of completion will be the date (Pacific Time) the course was electronically submitted for credit, with no exceptions. Partial credit is not available.
Learning Tools - Case Studies

CASE STUDY 1


An Asian woman, Patient D, is 64 years of age with a history of type 2 diabetes, asthma, hypertension, and degenerative joint disease. She presents to a general medicine clinic with persistent lower back pain. The patient reports that for the last few months, she has been experiencing aching pain in the lower lumbar area. It is worse with exertion. The pain is fairly localized, without radiation. She does not experience any tingling, numbness, or weakness. There is no history of trauma. On exam, blood pressure is 135/75 mm Hg, heart rate 72 beats per minute, respirations 18 breaths per minute, temperature 99 degrees Fahrenheit, height 59 inches (150 cm), and weight 99 lbs (45 kg). The patient does exhibit some tenderness to palpation in the lower lumbar area. She notes that she tries to remain active, walking about 2 to 3 miles, three or four days a week; she is also a devoted gardener. She is concerned enough about this pain that she believes she needs an x-ray. She also reluctantly remarks that she is not sure if she is exaggerating, but she feels she might be "shrinking." She recently tried on a pair of pants she purchased several years ago, and now they appear to be too long. She wants to know if this is possible. One of her sisters recently told her that she was diagnosed with "brittle bones." She asks you what this means and if she should be concerned.

Patient D has numerous risk factors for osteoporosis, including older age, female gender, and low body weight. She may also have a family history, and this should be explored further. Upon review of her medications, she has been treated with steroids for exacerbation of asthma, but there have been no such episodes in the past year. In addition, she is not on estrogen replacement therapy. The use of steroids and estrogen deficiency may be additional risk factors. Her level of physical activity is encouraging, but it does not offset her numerous risk factors.

As noted, most often patients do not present with significant signs or symptoms of osteoporosis. In this example, Patient D does present with back pain in the lower lumbar area, which has been persistent for several months. The physical exam does not reveal any signs of radiculopathy, obvious fracture, nerve damage, or acute cause of the low back pain. In addition, the review of past records does demonstrate that Patient D is approximately 10 cm shorter in height than five years ago. She clearly needs a work-up for osteoporosis.

Patient D has a full chemistry panel including calcium and phosphorus, liver function tests, thyroid function tests, and a complete blood count (CBC). All are within normal limits. Normal values should not be unexpected in patients with osteoporosis, as this is often the case. Because suspicion remains high for osteoporosis, Patient D must undergo bone mineral density testing. Although the patient wishes to have an x-ray, simple x-rays would not be helpful here unless one is trying to rule out a fracture or other structural cause of the low back pain.

Patient D should undergo DXA of the hip. She has a history of degenerative joint disease, which makes spine-imaging results more difficult to interpret. In addition, she has numerous risk factors, which make DXA a preferred test.

Patient D's T-score from DXA of the hip is -2.5; she meets the WHO criteria for osteoporosis. Given that she is already experiencing symptoms, intervention is necessary. A review of diet is the first step. Patient D currently does not use any supplements because she believes she eats a healthy diet. However, further review with a dietitian reveals that she is below the recommended intake of calcium and vitamin D. Therefore, supplementation with both calcium and vitamin D should begin immediately. As noted earlier, Patient D tries to remain active, mostly involved in walking and gardening. These can be good aerobic exercises, depending on their intensity, and she should be encouraged to continue them. However, a weight-bearing exercise regimen should slowly be worked into her routine. Because she does have degenerative joint disease, a monitored exercise program should be initially pursued so that she focuses properly on form and does not cause any excess stress on her joints.

Medications should also be strongly considered, given her T-score as well as symptoms. SERMs and bisphosphonates should be the preferred medications. Estrogen replacement is not recommended.

  • Back to Course Home
  • Participation Instructions
    • Review the course material online or in print.
    • Complete the course evaluation.
    • Review your Transcript to view and print your Certificate of Completion. Your date of completion will be the date (Pacific Time) the course was electronically submitted for credit, with no exceptions. Partial credit is not available.