Auburn Community Hospital Unveils Osteoporosis Fall Prevention Program

Posted on: 05/29/2014

Kristy Ventura, MSN, FNP-BC, along with the orthopedic surgeons at Auburn Orthopaedic Specialists, have established an Osteoporosis and Fall Prevention Program at Auburn Community Hospital (ACH).

It is the hope that this program will help prevent falls and offer an option for reducing fracture rates among frail, elderly patients. The program identifies patients within the hospital and emergency department that are at risk for osteoporosis and fractures and provides a comprehensive screening, fall prevention education, and treatment plan. Auburn Community Hospital becomes one of the first hospitals in the area to have a comprehensive osteoporosis and fall prevention program.

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease, “In the United States, more than 40 billion people either already have osteoporosis, or are at high risk due to low bone mass. This disease can occur in both men and women and at any age, but is most common in older women. Moreover, women near or past menopause who have sustained a fracture in the past, are more likely to experience another fracture. Unfortunately, few patients with fractures are referred for an osteoporosis evaluation and medical treatment.” An estimated 45% of patients who sustain a hip fracture had a previous fracture that should have been a warning regarding poor bone mass or bone quality.

Ventura stresses the need for osteoporosis evaluation. “Most patients coming to the hospital with a fracture are scared and want to avoid having another fracture so it makes sense to screen these patients for osteoporosis.” She also states “We are setting up this program with plans to have open communication and collaboration with the patient’s primary care provider so that the opportunity to treat osteoporosis is not missed after a hospitalization.

Osteoporosis, or “porous bone,” is a disease characterized by low bone mass and poor bone quality. “If a person obtains a ‘fragility fracture’, which is a break in the wrist, hip or back, they are automatically defined as having osteoporosis,” Ventura clarifies. “Our hips, back and wrists are built to withstand pressure. Therefore, when there is a fracture in any of these stronger bones, this can be a key sign of possible osteoporosis.” She further explains, “Diagnosing osteoporosis is not just a simple test. We look at what the bone did, focusing on details of the fracture, to determine if osteoporosis was a factor or cause of the break. Bone strength is multi-factorial and requires more than just focusing on the bone quantity that is typically seen in a bone density test. It is just as important to look at the quality of the bone, which may be more difficult to assess unless the patient has a fracture”.

When people think of osteoporosis they often think of it as a disease of the elderly. Yet, it has become an unfortunate reality that younger and younger women are being treated for loss of bone density. “Most people think [osteoporosis] only effects older people, but I see a lot of people in their 50’s dealing with it as well,” Ventura reveals. “Osteoporosis is going to be on the rise in the near future with today’s younger generations and the changing diet of the youth. Recently, there have even been cases of low-bone density recorded in children. A diet, complete with Calcium and Vitamin-D is needed to build and maintain a strong and healthy bone. And for many people this may require taking supplements which come in many varieties such as Calcium gummies, calcium chocolates, and Vitamin-D infused foods and drinks. Peak bone mass is achieved at about age 30. The stronger the bone density is as a young adult, the less likely you are to have a fracture when you get older.

Other known factors leading to osteoporosis are advancing age, chronic steroid usage, a lack of Estrogen and/or Testosterone. “Medications may be recommended, depending on the severity of the disease. Other treatments that can be recommended include exercise, supplements and foods rich in Calcium and Vitamin D,” says Ventura.

Together, Ventura and Dr. Thomas Sullivan have been treating osteoporosis for many years in their office at Auburn Orthopaedic Specialists. In addition to her current credentials Ventura has recently become a “Certified Fracture Liaison”.

According to the American Academy of Orthpaedic Surgeons, “Falls can be a life-changing event that robs the elderly of their independence and many falls can be prevented with healthy lifestyle choices and safety modifications in the home.”

Ventura recommends taking precautions around your household to prevent falls. Move slowly and pay attention to where you are stepping. Don’t rush or get up too quickly from sitting or lying down to avoid dizziness. Wear proper-fitting, supportive, low-heeled shoes with non-skid soles in and outside of your home and make sure all carpets and area rugs have skid-proof backing.

Furthermore, people should try to stay active and practice bone-strengthening exercises such as walking and continue healthy active hobbies like gardening. In coordination with Auburn YMCA, the Osteoporosis and Fall Prevention program at Auburn Community Hospital will include the opportunity for the patients to try bone healthy programs such as ‘Tai Chi’ and ‘Strength for Seniors’.

To find out more about the Osteoporosis and Fall Prevention Program, please contact Auburn Orthopaedic Specialists at 315-252-7559 or Auburn Community Hospital at 315-255-7011.

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