Zoledronic acid reduces the risk of death by 28% after hip fracture, but the mechanisms are not known. This exploratory analysis sought to identify potential pathways for the reduction in mortality with zoledronic acid after hip fracture. This was a retrospective analysis of a randomized, controlled trial. Patients with recent hip fracture (n = 2111) were treated with zoledronic acid or placebo infusion yearly, as well as calcium and vitamin D supplementation. Causes of death were adjudicated by a blinded central review committee. Baseline comorbidities, events occurring during the study period, including subsequent fracture, change in bone density, infections, cardiovascular events, arrhythmias, and falls, were included in multivariable analyses. In a model adjusted for baseline risk factors, zoledronic acid reduced the risk of death by 25% [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.58-0.97). The effect was consistent across most subgroups. Subsequent fractures were significantly associated with death (hazard ratio 1.72, 95% CI 1.17-2.51) but explained only 8% of the zoledronic acid effect. Adjusting for acute events occurring during follow-up eliminated the death benefit, and zoledronic acid-treated subjects were less likely to die from pneumonia (interaction p = .04) and arrhythmias (interaction p = .02) than placebo-treated subjects. Only 8% of zoledronic acid's death benefit is due to a reduction in secondary fractures. Zoledronic acid may have an effect on cardiovascular events and pneumonia. Further studies of zoledronic acid in other acute illnesses may be warranted.
2010 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research