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A case of pathological rib fractures: focal osteolysis or osteoporosis?

West Indian Medical Journal 57(2):178 (2008) PMID 19565965

This paper reports on a unique, previously unreported, successful outcome in the case of a patient with focal osteolytic lesions of the ribs as a first sign of osteoporosis. The lesions were detected by chance after acute cough-induced rib fractures were seen on plain chest radiographs. The diagnosis had to be approached as a diagnosis of exclusion since known causes of the osteolytic process had to be eliminated. The authors describe multiple focal osteolytic lesions with rib fractures appearing in a pattern that could be confused with metastases. Laboratory results were normal. Final diagnosis was based on plain radiography, bone scan and bone densitometry. Pharmacomedical treatments for osteoporosis were applied. The patient was observed between the year 2000 and 2005. Five years later radiological and bone scintigraphy revealed resolution of the lesion. We conclude that osteoporosis should be included in the differential diagnosis of asymptomatic focal osteolysis of the ribs with rib fractures as a complication of acute cough. The case suggests that focal osteolytic lesions of the ribs may regress over time and become scintigraphically inactive.

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