Summary: Early prognosis of osteoporosis risk is not only important to individual patients but is also a key factor when screening for osteoporosis drug trial populations. We present an osteoporosis fracture risk score based on vertebral heights. The score separated individuals who sustained fractures (by follow-up after 6.3 years) from healthy controls at baseline.

Introduction: This case-control study was designed to assess the ability of three novel fracture risk scoring methods to predict first incident lumbar vertebral fractures in postmenopausal women matched for classical risk factors such as BMD, BMI, and age.

Methods: This was a case-control study of 126 postmenopausal women, 25 of whom sustained at least one incident lumbar fracture and 101 controls that maintained skeletal integrity over a 6.3-year period. Three methods for fracture risk assessment were developed and tested. They are based on anterior, middle, and posterior vertebral heights measured from vertebrae T12-L5 in lumbar radiographs at baseline. Each score's fracture prediction potential was investigated in two variants using (1) measurements from the single most deformed vertebra or (2) average measurements across vertebrae T12-L5. Emphasis was given to the vertebral fracture risk (VFR) score.

Results: All scoring methods demonstrated significant separation of cases from controls at baseline. Specifically, for the VFR score, cases and controls were significantly different (0.67 ± 0.04 vs. 0.35 ± 0.03, p < 10 (-6)) with an AUC of 0.82. Dividing the VFR scores into tertiles, the fracture odds ratio for the highest versus lowest tertile was 35 (p < 0.001). Sorting the combined case-control group according to VFR score resulted in 90% of cases in the top half.

Conclusion: At baseline, the three scores separated cases from controls and, especially, the VFR score appears to be predictive of fractures. Control experiments, however also, indicate that VFR-based fracture prediction is operator/annotator dependent and high-quality annotations are needed for good fracture prediction.

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