Frequency of and risk factors for symptomatic bone fractures in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus

Scand J Rheumatol. 2013;42(5):390-3. doi: 10.3109/03009742.2013.775331. Epub 2013 May 31.


Objectives: To study risk factors for symptomatic bone fractures in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and to compare the frequency of fractures between SLE patients and population controls.

Method: The study included 222 SLE patients [mean age 47.0 years, disease duration 13.1 years, 204 (92%) women] and 720 population controls living in the metropolitan area of Helsinki. The history of symptomatic bone fractures in SLE patients and controls was recorded by interview, and demographic and clinical data of SLE patients were obtained by interview, clinical examination, and chart review.

Results: A history of at least one symptomatic bone fracture was recorded in 93 (42%) of all 222 patients with SLE. The risk of any fracture in 204 women with SLE compared to controls was 1.8 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.3-2.4] and fractures in the ankle, hip, and vertebral column were more common than in female controls, with odds ratios (ORs) of 2.0 (95% CI 1.1-3.7), 5.1 (95% CI 1.2-21.5), and 4.0 (95% CI 1.8-8.6), respectively. In 18 men with SLE, compared to male controls, no difference in the frequency of fractures was observed (OR 0.7, 95% CI 0.3-2.0). Risk factors for bone fractures in women with SLE were age (p = 0.008), comorbidity (p = 0.050), and the duration of corticosteroid use (p = 0.025).

Conclusions: Symptomatic bone fractures, especially in the ankle, hip, and vertebral column, are common in women with SLE. Special attention should be paid to preventing fractures in elderly female patients with comorbidities and a long duration of corticosteroid use.

MeSH terms

  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Fractures, Bone / epidemiology*
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors


  • Glucocorticoids