Forewarning about fractures

Monday, June 30, 2014 - 3:30pm

By Lesley Squarey

When Rose White fractured her wrist during a recent five-mile walk with her husband, she did what most people do: seek medical treatment. What she wasn’t prepared for was the news her health care professionals gave her, particularly that she was at higher risk of more fractures.

“It was certainly a wake-up call. You think you’re secluded from stuff like this when you live a healthy life style but you’re not. It’s all part of the aging process,” she said.

Following her fracture, White was assessed by the fracture navigator program at the Dartmouth General Hospital (DGH). This program works with patients who have had a fracture from a minor injury, such as a fall from standing height, to reduce the likelihood of a future break. It includes an assessment for osteoporosis, treating patients who are at high risk for future fractures and educating people who have experienced a fracture and are at risk for future breaks.

Out of the patients who have experienced their first fracture, 14 per cent will have an additional fracture within three years.

Carla Purcell, registered nurse and fracture navigator for the program, says once a fracture occurs, a person’s quality of life can decrease significantly. However, this could be prevented if treated properly.

“I see clients who are over 50 years old with major osteoporotic fractures: wrists, shoulders, hips, pelvis and spine,” she said. “In many cases, there is a physical decline in clients after a fracture and they lose a lot of their independence - something that may be prevented through risk assessment, treatment if necessary, vitamins D, fall prevention, a healthy diet and exercise.” 

White said that if a fracture can happen to her, it can happen to anyone.

“I never thought something like this would happen to me…I’ve always had a healthy diet and I’m very active,” she said.

With a rapidly aging population, Purcell believes the program is not only an essential service for patients within the Halifax area, but for patients across the province.

“Our demographic is getting older. The important thing is recognizing that when patients are sent home from the hospital after an osteoporotic fracture that they are at risk for more broken bones. This program wants to change that and give everyone the opportunity to reduce their risk of future fractures.”

White says she’s more aware of her surroundings after going through the program and she is making efforts to eliminate future fractures.

“Since my fracture I do little, but important, things that the program has taught me to do, like holding the railing when going down the stairs. I never thought to do that before. I just feel safer now knowing what can happen and how to prevent it from happening again.”