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Clinical Case Report

Diagnosis of osteoporosis in rural Arctic Greenland: a clinical case using plain chest radiography for secondary prevention and consideration of tools for primary prevention in remote areas

Submitted: 8 February 2016
Revised: 24 July 2016
Accepted: 4 October 2016
Published: 15 February 2017

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Author(s) : Fleischer I, Schæbel LK, Albertsen N, Sørensen VN, Andersen S.

Citation: Fleischer I, Schæbel LK, Albertsen N, Sørensen VN, Andersen S.  Diagnosis of osteoporosis in rural Arctic Greenland: a clinical case using plain chest radiography for secondary prevention and consideration of tools for primary prevention in remote areas. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2017; 17: 3910. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au/articles/subviewnew.asp?ArticleID=3910 (Accessed 28 April 2017). DOI: https://doi.org/10.22605/RRH3910

ABSTRACT

Context:  Osteoporosis is a frequent disease in many populations. The hallmark is fragility fractures, which are harbingers of future fractures, disability, mortality and cost on society. The occurrence increases with age, low vitamin D level and smoking. Smoking rates are high, vitamin D is low and life expectancy is rising steeply in Greenland, as is the need for focus on osteoporosis. We report a case that uses a simple and readily available tool to diagnose osteoporosis at the hospital in Sisimiut, a town of 5000 inhabitants on the west coast of Greenland.
Issues:  A 51-year-old Inuit woman was seen due to lower back pain. No trauma could be recalled. Laboratory results showed a low vitamin D level and normal S-calcium, S-phosphate, S-parathyroid hormone, S-thyrotropin, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, S-creatinine and hemoglobin. The lateral chest radiograph demonstrated a reduction of anterior height of the seventh and ninth thoracic vertebral bodies of 50% and 40% respectively.
Lessons learned:  Chest radiographs are frequently done in the towns along the vast coastline of Greenland, the world’s largest island. They are transferred to the hospital in the capital city Nuuk using existing tele-technology, and specialist evaluations are given in electronic records available at the coastal hospitals. Effective therapies for osteoporosis are available and the identification of vertebral fractures that merit treatment may prevent future fractures, morbidity and mortality. Fragility fractures are frequent in old age and the steep rise in life expectancy and in the number of old people in Greenland emphasize the need for a focus on management of osteoporosis. Geography provides a diagnostic challenge to rural and remote areas that can be overcome by the use of lateral chest radiographs as it relies on facilities readily available. Clinical risk assessment tools with high specificity may support further osteoporosis risk prediction in remote Arctic societies.

Key words: age, chest radiographs, chronic disease, developing society, fragility fracture, Greenland, risk factor.

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