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November 25, 1996

Vertebral Fracture and Other Predictors of Physical Impairment and Health Care Utilization

Author Affiliations

From the Hawaii Osteoporosis Center, Honolulu.

Arch Intern Med. 1996;156(21):2469-2475. doi:10.1001/archinte.1996.00440200087011

Background:  A better understanding of the impact of vertebral fractures on physical functioning would help clinicians gauge the potential benefits of identifying patients at high risk and prevent vertebral fractures due to osteoporosis.

Methods:  We explored the associations of vertebral fractures and other potential predictors with physical impairment and health care utilization based on the data collected from 569 postmenopausal Japanese American participants of the Hawaii Osteoporosis Study, aged from 55 to 93 years. A major advantage of this study is the availability of serial spine radiographs for all participants. All vertebral fractures could be identified and the fracture dates estimated.

Results:  Poor physical functioning was related to increases in number of recent vertebral fractures, age, body mass index, and number of other painful joints. Recent vertebral fractures had a strong impact on bending- and walking-related activities. For each recent vertebral fracture, the odds of impairment increased about 2 times and the odds of a physician visit for back pain increased 3.6 times. The number of recent vertebral fractures was also a significant predictor of poor performance in functional reach and walking speed tests. The effects of vertebral fractures on physical functioning may persist for several years.

Conclusions:  Recent vertebral fractures may lead to long-term poor physical functioning. Clinicians should take appropriate measures to identify those at risk, to prevent progression of osteoporosis, and to limit associated disability.Arch Intern Med. 1996;156:2469-2475

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