A single bone mineral density test predicts 'silent' spinal fractures years later

Dec 18, 2007

A single bone mineral density (BMD) test given 15 years earlier predicted a woman’s risk of developing fractures to her spine over time, according to the largest and longest prospective study of osteoporosis.

The study, published in the Dec. 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association and led by investigators at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, also found that women who had a spinal fracture at the start of the study were four times more likely to have another fracture. In fact, more than half of the women with low BMD and existing spinal fractures developed new fractures over the 15-year study period, raising concerns about the impact of so-called “silent” fractures to the spine.

“Spinal fractures are the hallmark of osteoporosis, but one of the problems with diagnosing them is that they often have no symptoms,” said Jane Cauley, Dr.P.H., professor of epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. “Many women may be walking around with multiple fractures and not even know it. Our study raises concerns about the impact of these fractures on quality of life by putting women at risk for subsequent fractures, but it also provides evidence that a simple and non-invasive bone density test can help identify those at risk.”

The findings are based on 2,300 women over the age of 65 enrolled in the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures (SOF), a longitudinal, multi-site study initiated in 1986 to learn more about the risk factors and causes of osteoporosis. For the current study, investigators from five institutions took lateral radiographs of the thoracic and lumbar spines of research participants and measured their BMD and body weight. Researchers found that by year 15 of the study, 18 percent of the women had experienced spinal fractures. They also found that 25 percent of women who began the study with low BMD developed spine fractures, compared to only nine percent of women with normal BMD.

According to Dr. Cauley, the study’s results demonstrate the importance of BMD testing for women over the age of 50. About 700,000 spinal fractures occur each year in women in this age group, and 75 percent of these fractures occur without symptoms. Spinal fractures result in chronic back pain and increased risk of other fractures, including those in the hip.

“Women don’t have to end up with dowager’s hump, the hallmark of osteoporosis,” said Dr. Cauley. Dowager’s hump indicates that a woman has endured multiple spine fractures. “Osteoporosis is not an inevitable consequence of aging. Under-diagnosis remains a major problem. There are several effective treatments for osteoporosis that can prevent subsequent fractures, so it is vitally important to recognize these fractures with repeat spine films over time.”

Based on the results of the study, Dr. Cauley and colleagues are developing a risk model to help physicians better identify women who are more likely to have a silent spine fracture and who may benefit from treatment.

Source: University of Pittsburgh

Explore further: Newly discovered gut virus lives in half the world's population

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hoverbike drone project for air transport takes off

10 hours ago

What happens when you cross a helicopter with a motorbike? The crew at Malloy Aeronautics has been focused on a viable answer and has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support its Hoverbike project, "The ...

Study indicates large raptors in Africa used for bushmeat

10 hours ago

Bushmeat, the use of native animal species for food or commercial food sale, has been heavily documented to be a significant factor in the decline of many species of primates and other mammals. However, a new study indicates ...

Recommended for you

Monitoring the rise and fall of the microbiome

4 hours ago

Trillions of bacteria live in each person's digestive tract. Scientists believe that some of these bacteria help digest food and stave off harmful infections, but their role in human health is not well understood.

Antioxidant biomaterial promotes healing

11 hours ago

When a foreign material like a medical device or surgical implant is put inside the human body, the body always responds. According to Northwestern University's Guillermo Ameer, most of the time, that response can be negative ...

Immune response may cause harm in brain injuries, disorders

14 hours ago

Could the body's own immune system play a role in memory impairment and cognitive dysfunction associated with conditions like chronic epilepsy, Alzheimer's dementia and concussions? Cleveland Clinic researchers believe so, ...

User comments : 0