Catching broken bones before patients fall again

Elderly hands

New research shows that elderly patients with fractures are at high risk of a second immediately after the first – and that specialist bone care should be ramped up straight away to avoid this.

Professor Nick Harvey from the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre has published work in the journal Osteoporosis International showing elderly patients with fragile bones are most at risk of a second fracture in the years immediately following their first fracture.

These findings suggest that care including medication to strengthen bones, lifestyle help to prevent falls, boosting calcium and vitamin D in patients’ diets should be started as soon as possible after a fracture to limit the risk of more.

Weak and fragile bones

While steady weakening of the bones affects us all as part of the natural ageing process, osteoporosis is a common condition that sees their bones become particularly fragile and more likely to break.

Affecting over three million people in the UK, it is associated with more than 500,000 hospitalisations for fragility fractures every year. Because falls are the main cause of fractures, they are most commonly seen in the wrist, hip and vertebrae of the spine.

Preventing further fractures

The latest study looked at osteoporosis-associated fractures in over 18,000 Icelandic men and women. They found that almost 2000 of the 5000 who had a single fracture suffered a second.

In those over the age of 60, the risk of a second fracture was highest immediately after the first, gradually decreasing over time.

Elderly patients, the researchers recommend, should therefore receive preventative treatment as soon as possible after their first fracture to prevent future ones.  

Posted on Monday 9 January 2017