A recent study reported that older men and women who suffer a low-trauma fracture due to osteoporosis are at increased risk of dying for 5 to 10 years following the injury, compared to the general population. Those who experience another fracture increase their risk of death for an additional 5 years.

Osteoporosis-related fractures are a growing health concern, especially with the aging of the U.S. population. Principal investigator Dr. Jacqueline R. Center states that all low-trauma fractures, not just hip fractures, are significant events that need to be addressed as such. At the very least, osteoporosis treatment (for low bone density) should be instituted following any injury to decrease the risk of a subsequent fracture.

In the study, conducted at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, researchers examined the long-term risk of death following osteoporotic fractures in 2,245 women and 1,760 men aged 60 and older. Among the women, there were 952 low-trauma fractures followed by 461 deaths, while among the men, there were 343 fractures followed by 197 deaths.

Researchers concluded that compared to the general population, patients were at an increased risk of death following a hip fracture, a spine fracture, and other major fractures for 5 years post-fracture. Minor fractures only showed an increased risk of death in those aged 75 and older. After 5 years, the risk of death decreased, except for hip fractures, with which the risk remained for 10 years. After 10 years, death rates were not different from that of an appropriately age-matched population.

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Perhaps the most important result of the study was the finding that nonhip and nonvertebral fractures not only constituted 50% of the fractures, but that they were also associated with 29% of the premature mortality, suggesting that more attention should be given to these types of fractures.

Several factors are believed to increase the risk of death following a fracture, including weaker quadriceps in both men and women, lower bone density, increased sway and having smoked in women, and decreased physical activity in men. The specific circumstances surrounding the fracture also must be considered to appropriately assess any existing risk factors for osteoporosis.

For further reading, see Vertebral Augmentation for Compression Fractures

Additional Resource:

Bone Fracture Study -- Garvan Institute