Diagnosis and management of vertebral fractures in elderly adults

Am J Med. 2002 Aug 15;113(3):220-8. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9343(02)01190-7.


We reviewed the epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment of vertebral fractures due to osteoporosis in the elderly. Vertebral fractures are underdiagnosed despite their high prevalence in both men and women. Clinical consequences of vertebral fractures include increased risk of future vertebral and hip fracture, acute and chronic back pain, decreased quality of life, and increased mortality. Patients with vertebral fractures have functional impairment and increased mortality similar to those with hip fractures. Asymptomatic fractures identified on radiograph also affect quality of life and mortality. A vertebral fracture is a clinical marker for a subsequent fracture and should trigger assessment and diagnosis of osteoporosis. The care of patients with vertebral fractures includes pain management, rehabilitation, and prevention of further fractures. There is evidence from randomized controlled trials that pharmacologic therapy can reduce the risk of future fractures by 40% to 50%. Vertebroplasty may be effective in the control of pain and in obtaining stability of the spine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bone Density / physiology
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis / complications
  • Osteoporosis / diagnosis
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Prevention / methods
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Spinal Fractures / epidemiology*
  • Spinal Fractures / etiology
  • Spinal Fractures / prevention & control
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / injuries*