Vertebral compression fractures in the elderly

Am Fam Physician. 2004 Jan 1;69(1):111-6.


Compression fracture of the vertebral body is common, especially in older adults. Vertebral compression fractures usually are caused by osteoporosis, and range from mild to severe. More severe fractures can cause significant pain, leading to inability to perform activities of daily living, and life-threatening decline in the elderly patient who already has decreased reserves. While the diagnosis can be suspected from history and physical examination, plain roentgenography, as well as occasional computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging, are often helpful in accurate diagnosis and prognosis. Traditional conservative treatment includes bed rest, pain control, and physical therapy. Interventional procedures such as vertebroplasty can be considered in those patients who do not respond to initial treatment. Family physicians can help patients prevent compression fractures by diagnosing and treating predisposing factors, identifying high-risk patients, and educating patients and the public about measures to prevent falls.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Bed Rest
  • Fractures, Spontaneous* / diagnosis
  • Fractures, Spontaneous* / epidemiology
  • Fractures, Spontaneous* / etiology
  • Fractures, Spontaneous* / therapy
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Osteoporosis / complications
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / prevention & control
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Spinal Fractures* / diagnosis
  • Spinal Fractures* / epidemiology
  • Spinal Fractures* / etiology
  • Spinal Fractures* / therapy
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • United States / epidemiology