Complications related to osteopenia in the thoracic spine on admission chest radiographs of substance abuse detoxification patients

Linda B. Haramati, Daniel D. Alterman, Gary M. Israel, Raja Mallavurapu, Nogah Haramati

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Objective. To assess the prevalence of complications related to osteopenia in the thoracic spine (anterior wedging and fish vertebrae) of patients admitted for substance abuse detoxification. Design and patients. We retrospectively identified 150 sequential patients admitted to our drug and alcohol detoxification ward in whom posteroanterior and lateral admission chest radiographs and clinical charts were available for review. There were 116 men and 34 women with a mean age of 37 years (range 19-67 years). Thirty-eight patients were admitted for drug detoxification, 37 for alcohol detoxification, and 75 for drug and alcohol detoxification. These patients were compared with 66 age- and sex-matched controls from our hospital's employee health service. Two radiologists reviewed all chest radiographs for the presence of anterior wedging and fish vertebrae in the thoracic spine and other nonspinal fractures. Serum calcium and inorganic phosphorus levels were recorded for the substance abuse detoxification patients. Results. Forty-nine percent (n = 73) of detoxification patients had complications of osteopenia in the thoracic spine including: anterior wedging (n = 47), fish vertebrae (n = 21), or both (n = 5), Twenty-four percent (n = 36) of patients had an elevated serum inorganic phosphorus level and one patient had an elevated serum calcium level. Patients with anterior wedging or fish vertebrae included: 45% (n = 45) of patients below age 40 years, 35% (n = 12) of women, 41% (n = 15) of drug detoxification patients, 58% (n = 22) of alcohol de toxification patients, 48% (n = 36) of drug and alcohol detoxification patients, and 47% (n = 17) of patients with elevated serum inorganic phosphorus (P = NS). Six percent (M = 9) of our study population had nonspinal fractures on their chest radiographs. Twenty-one percent (n = 14) of controls had complications of osteopenia in the thoracic spine (all anterior wedging). This prevalence differed significantly (P < 0.05, chi-squared) from the study population. Conclusion. Osteopenia-related anterior wedging and fish vertebrae in the thoracic spine are common findings on chest radiographs of patients hospitalized for substance abuse detoxification. Serum inorganic phosphorus and calcium levels did not correlate with the presence of anterior wedging or fish vertebrae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)565-568
Number of pages4
JournalSkeletal Radiology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 1998



  • Abnormalities
  • Radiography
  • Spine
  • Thorax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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