Fracture risk associated with systemic and topical corticosteroids


Dr Peter Vestergaard, The Osteoporosis Clinic, Aarhus Amtssygehus, Tage Hansens Gade 2, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. (fax: +45 89 49 76 84; e-mail:


Objectives.  To study the fracture risk associated with the use of corticosteroids in any formulation and administration.

Design.  Case–control study.

Setting.  Community-based study in Denmark.

Subjects.  Cases were all subjects with any fracture sustained during the year 2000 (n = 124 655). For each case, three controls (n = 373 962) matched on age and gender were randomly drawn from the background population. Adjustments were made for concurrent diseases (lung diseases, rheumatic disorders), use of other drugs (inhaled bronchodilators), contacts to hospitals and general practitioners, and social variables.

Results.  An increased risk of any fracture, hip, spine, and forearm fractures was present with use of more than 2.5 mg of prednisolone or equivalent orally per day. For inhaled corticosteroids a limited increase in the risk of any fracture was present in users of more than 7.5 mg prednisolone equivalents per day (equivalent to 1875 μg of budesonide per day). However, no increase in the risk of hip, spine or forearm fractures was present in users of inhaled corticosteroids. For other topical corticosteroids (dermal, rectal, nasal, local application in the mouth, the eyes or the ears) no increase in fracture risk could be demonstrated even at high doses after adjustment for confounders.

Conclusions.  Ingestion of more than 2.5 mg of oral prednisolone equivalents per day is associated with an increase in fracture risk. No increase is associated with inhaled corticosteroids except at daily dosages above 7.5 mg of prednisolone equivalents. No increase in fracture risk is associated with other forms of topical corticosteroids.