Background: Most hip fractures result from falls. However, the role of fall-related factors has seldom been examined. Comparison of the predictive value of these factors with that of bone mineral density (BMD) has important implications for the prevention of hip fractures.
Methods: We assessed femoral-neck BMD by dual-photon X-ray absorptiometry and potential fall-related risk factors, which included self-reported physical capacity, neuromuscular function, mobility, visual function, and use of medication in 7575 women, aged 75 years or older, with no history of hip fracture recruited at five centres in France. We followed up these women every 4 months to record incident hip fractures. During an average of 1.9 years of follow-up 154 women suffered a first hip fracture.
Findings: In age-adjusted multivariate analyses, we found four independent fall-related predictors of hip fracture: slower gait speed (relative risk = 1 . 4 for 1 SD decrease [95% Cl 1.1-1.6)]; difficulty in doing a tandem (heel-to-toe) walk (1.2 for 1 point on the difficulty score [1.0-1.5]); reduced visual acuity (2.0 for acuity < or = 2/10 [1.1-3.7]); and small calf circumference (1.5 [1.0-2.2]). After adjustment for femoral-neck BMD, neuromuscular impairment--gait speed, tandem walk--and poor vision remained significantly associated with an increased risk of subsequent hip fracture. With high risk defined as the top quartile of risk, the rate of hip fracture among women classified as high risk based on both a high fall-risk status and low BMD was 29 per 1000 women-years, compared with 11 per 1000 for women classified as high risk by either a high fall-risk status or low BMD; for women classified as low risk based on both criteria the rate was five per 1000.
Interpretation: We conclude that neuromuscular and visual impairments, as well as femoral-neck BMD, are significant and independent predictors of the risk of hip fracture in elderly mobile women, and that their combined assessment improves the prediction of hip fractures.