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Keywords:

  • osteoporosis;
  • fractures;
  • morbidity;
  • mortality;
  • cost

Abstract

Osteoporotic fractures exact a terrible toll on the population with respect to morbidity and cost, and to a lesser extent mortality, which will increase dramatically with the growing elderly population. Attention has focused on the 12-20% excess deaths after hip fracture, but most are caused by underlying medical conditions unrelated to osteoporosis. More important is fracture-related morbidity. An estimated 10% of patients are disabled by hip fracture, and 19% require institutionalization, accounting for almost 140,000 nursing home admissions annually in this country. Distal forearm and vertebral fractures less commonly result in nursing home placement, but about 10% of postmenopausal women have vertebral deformities that cause chronic pain, and a substantial minority have poor function after forearm fracture. These fractures interfere greatly with the activities of daily living, and all of them can have a substantial negative impact on quality of life. Annual expenditures for osteoporotic fracture care in the United States ($17.5 million in 2002 dollars) are dominated by hip fracture treatment, but vertebral fractures, distal forearm fractures, and importantly, the other fractures related to osteoporosis contribute one-third of the total. Although all fracture patients are at increased risk of future fractures, few of them are currently treated for osteoporosis, and only a subset (i.e., those with vertebral fractures) are considered candidates for many clinical trials. Eligibility criteria should be expanded and fracture end-points generalized to acknowledge the overall burden of osteoporotic fractures.