An online tool to cut delay in assessing bone risk

GPs should use an online tool to evaluate fracture risk in patients with osteoporosis, to overcome delays in access to DEXA scans, osteoporosis experts say.

The FRAX tool has been developed to assess 10-year fracture risk in men over the age of 50 and in women after the menopause.

It takes into account risk factors including BMI, use of steroid tablets, smoking status and alcohol consumption to calculate risk of hip fracture or a major osteoporotic fracture.

GPs or patients can enter data online and receive an immediate risk assessment. NICE guidance recommends DEXA scans to measure osteoporosis risk, but accessing the scans can take up to six months.

The FRAX tool is recommended in guidelines released this week by the National Osteoporosis Guideline Group.

Speaking at the launch of the guidelines, Dr Alun Cooper, chairman of the National Osteoporosis Society's (NOS) primary care forum and a member of the guideline group, said: 'A lot of GPs do very little in terms of osteoporosis care because of a lack of DEXA scanning.

'Having FRAX will help overcome this and open up treatment to patients. We could use FRAX during fracture liaison services via a local enhanced service.'

But GPs could also offer FRAX testing to patients opportunistically, said Dr Cooper.

They could be linked to quality framework reviews for COPD, diabetes and hypothyroid - conditions that increase osteoporosis risk - he said.

Swansea GP Dr Pam Brown, a member of the NOS primary care forum, said: 'In Swansea there is a six-month wait for DEXA scans. FRAX could revolutionise things.'

The osteoporosis guidance will be sent to all GPs in England from next week.

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