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Fractures up Death Risk for Men and Women

February 5, 2009

Older men and women who suffer a broken bone are at higher risk of dying over the next five to ten years, and among those who have a second fracture, the risk period is even longer.

Australian researchers arrived at those conclusions after studying mortality rates and bone fractures in more than 2,200 women and 1,700 men age 60 and older who lived in one community. The increased risk of death was seen across all age groups in those who experienced hip, vertebral, and major fractures. More minor fractures upped the death risk for people age 75 and older.

People who had hip fractures continued to have higher death rates for ten years, while the risk of death began to decline to usual levels for those with other types of fractures after five years. Mortality rates evened out for all the people who experienced fractures ten years post-fracture. However a second fracture meant another five years of elevated risk.

The researchers were especially interested by the finding showing nonhip, no vertebral fractures accounted for nearly 50 percent of the fractures in the study and nearly 29 percent of the increased risk of death. They note most studies looking at fracture risk in the elderly take only hip and vertebral fractures into account.

The fact that both men and women suffered an increased risk of death due to fractures is also worth noting and probably warrants further investigation.

“These data suggest fracture is a signal event that heralds an increased mortality risk: whether it is related to an underlying increased risk for both fracture and mortality, which may be the case for women, or whether it is related to some aspect of the fracture event itself, as appears to be the case for men, needs further exploration,” conclude the investigators.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, published online February 3, 2009

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