Resource implications of hospitalization for osteoporosis-related vertebral fracture are sparsely documented. This study utilized data abstracted from a national sample of hospitalized patients to identify characteristics of patients who are hospitalized with vertebral fracture and their patterns of resource utilization. These were compared with patterns observed for hip fracture hospitalizations. Data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) for 1997 were used to identify men and women age 45 years and above who had a primary diagnosis of vertebral fracture. After patients whose fractures might have been due to metastatic cancer or severe trauma were excluded, 68,901 individuals hospitalized for vertebral fracture were identified. Seventy-seven percent of these were women, most were white, 75 years and older, and had multiple comorbid diagnoses. Total charges averaged 8000-10,000 US dollars per hospitalization and were higher in men. Mean length of stay was just under 6 days and more than 50% of discharged patients required some form of continuing care. Hospitalizations for vertebral fracture occurred at only one-fourth the rate of those for hip fracture, and created only half the hospital charges per admission. Vertebral fracture accounted for over 400,000 total hospital days and generated charges in excess of 500 million US dollars. This resource impact is considerably higher than has been described in prior studies.