Objective: Osteoarthritis (OA) is associated with an increase in bone density both locally and at distant sites. Prospective data are limited on the relationship between OA and fracture. We studied the possible relationship between self-reported OA, bone density, postural stability measures, and atraumatic fractures as part of a study of men and women over 60 years of age.
Methods: Subjects were part of the Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study (a longitudinal population based study of fracture risk factors). Bone density was measured by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. Postural stability was assessed by the validated measures of quadriceps strength and sway. Medication use and self-reported arthritis were assessed by a structured personal interview. Fractures were ascertained retrospectively by interview and prospectively by viewing radiographic reports for fracture.
Results: Among a study population of 1101 women and 720 men (mean age 69) there were 462 subjects (25%) who reported a diagnosis of OA. In both sexes, subjects with OA had higher bone density (adjusted for age and body mass index) at both the femoral neck (men, p = 0.026; women, p = 0.048) and lumbar spine (men, p = 0.0007; women, p = 0.0007). However, in both sexes, those with self-reported OA also had higher body sway and lower quadriceps strength. The combination of these observed differences in fracture risk factors led to no predicted change in fracture risk overall when using established nomograms for this population [men, OR = 1.11 (95% CI 0.83-1.45); women, OR = 1.08 (95% CI 0.83-1.39)]. This paralleled our observational finding that self-reported OA was not associated with a decrease in fracture incidence compared to those not reporting OA in both men (RR 0.64, 95% CI 0.29-1.39) and women (RR 1.00, 95% CI 0.66-1.51).
Conclusion: Individuals with self-reported OA, despite higher bone density, are not protected against nonvertebral osteoporotic fracture, apparently due to worsened postural stability and thus an increased tendency to fall.