The new service is also likely to result in a significant reduction in the numbers of fractures experienced by this patient group.
NHS Western Isles recently invested in a piece of equipment that is able to measure the strength of bones and identify patients with, or at risk of, osteoporosis, known as a Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) scanner.
Radiology Manager, Fiona McLean explained: “The DEXA scanner provides the gold standard technique of diagnosing osteoporosis.
“We have powerful medication to significantly reduce the risk of fractures but the evidence shows that these are only effective in patients with confirmed osteoporosis. Just having a fracture isn’t enough to diagnose osteoporosis or recommend treatment.
“The DEXA scanner will ensure the right treatment for the right patient at the right time and we know that treatment will significantly reduce the number of fractures experienced by patients, helping to maintain independence in our ageing population.”
The scanner forms a key part of the new service, which will be run by the Radiology Department with support from colleagues in Physiotherapy, Falls and Rehabilitation Service, Occupational Therapy, Pharmacy, Dietetics and Health Promotion.
It is anticipated that between 200 and 250 Western Isles patients a year will benefit from the new scanner.
Due to the flexibility of the service in terms of access to the scanner, patients from the Uists will be able to travel for the scan and return home the same day. Appointments will be scheduled to ensure that days of operation and timing of scans allows this.
Previously, all patients who needed a DEXA scan had to travel to Dingwall for assessment, which was often inconvenient. As osteoporosis is an increasing problem with an ageing population, NHS Western Isles took the decision to develop a new enhanced service and invest in this technology to allow patients to be assessed locally.
NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson described the new service as a ‘a major and welcome enhancement to the delivery of fracture prevention.
He said: “This is part of a holistic service development, which will help us to identify patients who are at risk of developing a fracture as well as to assess those who have already had a fracture, to allow appropriate treatment to be administered and lifestyle interventions put in place.
“Globally, more than a third of women and a fifth of men will sustain an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime with hip fractures alone accounting for 20 per cent of all orthopaedic bed days.
“Osteoporosis is a risk factor for fractures in the same way that hypertension is for stroke. Developing the best possible Fracture Liaison Service, at the heart of which is the new DEXA scanner (pictured above), was therefore an important priority for us in the Western Isles, both in terms of streamlining and improving services for patients as well as providing support to patients to prevent fractures occurring in the first place.”
The new scanner will enable staff to identify fractures caused by osteoporosis. Through the Fracture Liaison Service, patients will then be assessed, not just for bone density but also for possible causes (e.g. smoking, alcohol excess, some prescribed medications, or various medical conditions to allow the opportunity for these to be addressed.