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Osteoporosis cost WA hospitals more than $100 million in last decade

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In a collaborative study, Curtin University researchers have determined that osteoporotic fracture-related hospitalisations impose a substantial financial impact on the Western Australian health care system, in the order of $100 million per decade.

Osteoporosis is a skeletal condition characterised by a decrease in bone mass and quality that reduces bone strength and increases propensity to fracture. This can result in serious injury and often hospitalisation, as well as increase the likelihood of additional fractures and death.

Associate Professor Andrew Briggs, Curtin’s School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science and lead on the study, said the project sought to quantify direct hospitalisation costs to WA for osteoporosis-related fractures and estimate the risk of re-admissions.

“Mortality and morbidity associated with osteoporotic fractures exceed those for many other chronic health conditions, making it a substantial personal and socioeconomic burden at both State and national level as well as globally,” Associate Professor Briggs said.

The risk of hospitalisation for re-fractures rises markedly after an initial fracture, particularly within the first 12 months and in high-risk groups, and exponentially for every subsequent fracture sustained thereafter. By 2022, the rate of hospitalisation for a fracture is estimated to increase to one fracture every 2.9 minutes.

“More Australians sustaining more osteoporosis-related fractures, taken in parallel with increasing morbidity impacts and mortality risks associated with each fracture sustained, will undoubtedly place enormous pressure on our health systems,” Associate Professor Briggs said.

“This is particularly true for our already overloaded emergency, radiology and orthopaedic surgery departments and residential aged care facilities.

“In the last ten years, it has already cost the WA health system more than $100 million in direct hospital costs and this does not even account for expenditure outside hospitals.”

The study recommends policy and programs to improve identification of index fractures and initiation of osteoporosis treatments and primary prevention initiatives.

“The data also provides further justification for the implementation of Fracture Liaison Services in health services, which is consistent with the WA Osteoporosis Model of Care and the NSW Re-fracture Prevention Model of Care,” Associate Professor Briggs said.

The research was done in collaboration with WA Department of Health and The University of Western Australia.

The paper, titled Hospitalisations, admission costs and re-fracture risk related to osteoporosis in Western Australia are substantial: a 10-year review was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health on 12 June.

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