Pathologic fractures, especially of the axial skeleton, are extremely common in patients with multiple myeloma and cluster around the time of diagnosis. Osteoporotic fractures seem to be less of a problem in these patients.
Introduction: It is generally believed that fractures are common in patients with multiple myeloma as a result of lytic bone lesions, generalized bone loss, and/or elevated bone turnover from excessive cytokine production, but the actual risk of pathologic versus osteoporotic fractures has not been quantified.
Materials and Methods: In a population-based retrospective cohort study, 165 Olmsted County, MN, residents with myeloma diagnosed from 1945 to 2001 (55% men; mean age, 70.7 ± 11.1 years) were followed for 537 person-years. The relative risk of fractures was assessed by standardized incidence ratios (SIRs), and risk factors were evaluated in proportional hazards models.
Results: Altogether, 134 patients experienced 463 fractures. In the year before diagnosis, 16 times more fractures were observed than expected, mostly pathologic fractures of the vertebrae and ribs. Subsequently, there was a 9-fold increase in fracture risk. However, 69% of these fractures were pathologic, and another 11% were found incidentally on myeloma monitoring. With the latter two groups excluded, subsequent fracture risk was elevated 3-fold, with a 2-fold increase in the risk of an osteoporotic fracture. In multivariate analyses, the predictors of overall fracture risk were oral corticosteroid use and elevated serum calcium levels, whereas pathologic fractures were additionally predicted by use of chemotherapy.
Conclusion: There is a dramatic increase in fractures around the time of diagnosis of myeloma, most of which are pathologic fractures. The most important predictor of overall fracture risk is oral corticosteroid use.