20 March 2017

Osteoporosis fractures may be deadlier for men

Although women suffer more from osteoporosis-related fractures, a new study found that a fracture is more likely to be fatal for men.

Women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men, research from the National Osteoporosis Foundation South Africa has found.

Now new research suggests that even though men are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis they are more likely to die after suffering an osteoporosis-related fracture.

Osteoporosis is the main cause of fractures in older men and women. The areas of the body most often affected are the wrist, spine, and hip. Especially hip fractures can cause permanent disability. 

Osteoporosis, a disease where bones become weak and brittle, affects more than 44 million Americans. It contributes to about two million fractures a year, with women suffering more of these broken bones than men. 

According to NOFSA, one in three women and one in five men in South Africa will possibly develop this disease within their lifetime – which means potentially between four and six million South Africans suffer from Osteoporosis.

Mortality risk higher in men 

"Although women are more likely to sustain an initial, osteoporosis-related 'fragility fracture', men have similar rates of incurring a subsequent fracture and are at greater risk for mortality after these injuries," said study author Dr Alan Zhang.

Zhang is an orthopaedic surgeon and assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco.

For the study, researchers analysed data from more than one million Americans, aged 65 and older, who had osteoporosis and suffered a fracture between 2005 and 2009. Of those patients, 87% were women.

The death rate one year after a fracture was almost 19% for men and 13% for women. Ankle fractures were the only exception, with similar death rates for men and women of just over 8%, the investigators found.

Gender differences

Women were five times more likely to suffer an initial fracture than men, but had a slightly lower risk for subsequent fractures within three years of the first fracture, the findings showed.

Also, men who required surgery to treat an initial fracture were more likely to suffer another fracture within three years. The only exception was with spinal compression fractures, where the male-female risk was comparable, the researchers said.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in San Diego.

"The key findings from this study show that patient sex can affect the risk for sustaining a fragility fracture related to osteoporosis," Zhang said in an academy news release. "These findings may be used to better counsel patients after an initial fragility fracture."

Read More:

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Physical therapy drastically reduces urinary leaks in post-menopausal women with osteoporosis

These bones were made for walkin'


Ask the Expert

Healthy Bones

Tereza is the CEO of the National Osteoporosis Foundation and worked as a Nursing Sister in the field of Osteoporosis for 18 years prior to her appointment with the Foundation. She used to be the Educational Officer for the Foundation and co-wrote the patient brochure on Osteoporosis. Read more

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