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, 255 (1736), 19-22, 2-3

Preventing Osteoporotic Fractures in Older People

  • PMID: 21370710

Preventing Osteoporotic Fractures in Older People

Eugene McCloskey. Practitioner.


While fractures at the spine, wrist and hip are regarded as classical osteoporotic fractures, all fragility fractures in the elderly should be considered as osteoporotic once pathological fracture (e.g. metastatic disease) has been excluded. The assessment of fracture risk should take account of specific risk factors in addition to bone mineral density (BMD). The WHO has produced FRAX, a well validated tool that estimates the probability of a major osteoporotic fracture in the next 10 years. The algorithm is specifically designed for primary care. After age and prior fragility fracture, BMD is the next major determinant of fracture risk. Rather than scanning all individuals with a risk factor, measurements should be targeted to those whose probability of fracture lies close to the intervention threshold where knowledge of BMD will influence management. Individuals with a low trauma vertebral fracture or low BMD for age should be investigated for underlying causes of osteoporosis. Secondary causes account for up to 40% of cases of osteoporosis in women and 60% in men. The goal of osteoporosis management is to reduce the future risk of fracture. Lifestyle modification includes measures to reduce falls risk and bone loss such as exercise, adequate dietary calcium and avoidance of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. All patients with an osteoporotic fracture and those at high risk should be assessed for falls risk. Combined therapy, with calcium and vitamin D, has been shown to reduce hip fracture risk in the frail elderly and should be considered in all older patients who are housebound or in residential care. Alendronate and risedronate are available as once-weekly preparations with evidence for significant reductions in vertebral and non-vertebral fractures. Denosumab is approved for osteoporosis in postmenopausal women at increased risk of fractures. Strontium ranelate has been shown to reduce fracture risk significantly in postmenopausal women.

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