Background: Every year 30% of individuals above age 65 fall, and falls are the principal cause of bone fractures. To reduce fracture incidence requires both prevention of falls and maintenance of bone strength.
Methods: PubMed searches were performed, for studies of the epidemiology of fractures, bone physiology, endocrine effects, osteoporosis measurement, genetics, prevention and effectiveness. Topic summaries were presented to the Workshop Group and omissions or disagreements were resolved by discussion.
Results: Ageing reduces bone strength in post-menopausal women because estrogen deficiency causes accelerated bone resorption. Bone mineral density (BMD) decreased more than 2.5 standard deviation below the mean of healthy young adults defines osteoporosis, a condition associated with an increased risk of fractures. Risk factors such as age and previous fracture are combined with BMD for a more accurate prediction of fracture risk. The most widely used assessment tool is FRAX™ which combines clinical risk factors and femoral neck BMD. General preventive measures include physical exercise to reduce the risk of falling and vitamin D to facilitate calcium absorption. Pharmacological interventions consist mainly in the administration of inhibitors of bone resorption. Randomized controlled trials show treatment improves BMD, and may reduce the relative fracture risk by about 50% for vertebral, 20-25% for non-vertebral and up to 40% for hip fractures although the absolute risk reductions are much lower.
Conclusions: Although diagnosis of osteoporosis is an important step, the threshold for treatment to prevent fractures depends on additional clinical risk factors. None of the presently available treatment options provide complete fracture prevention.