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Glendale Adventist Medical Center
1509 Wilson Terrace
Glendale, CA 91206
Ph: (818) 409-8000

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Can you tell me what a "fragility fracture" is? My 87-year-old mother says this is what the doctor told her is causing her wrist pain. Should we be concerned?

A fragility fracture is a bone break that occurs without significant trauma. The person could just be lifting a cup of coffee, turning a key in the door lock, or picking up a small book when the bone fractures. Osteoporosis is often the reason for these fractures. Osteoporosis (decreased bone mineral density) is a very common disorder affecting the skeleton. In a patient with osteoporosis, the bones begin losing their minerals and support beams, leaving the skeleton brittle and prone to fractures. In the U.S., 10 million individuals are estimated to already have the disease and almost 34 million more have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis. Of the 10 million Americans affected by osteoporosis, eight million are women and two million are men. Most of them over age 65. So your mother falls right in with the typical demographics of someone with a osteoporosis-related fragility fracture. Half of all bone fractures are related to osteoporosis. More than 300,000 hip fractures occur in the United States every year. A person with a hip fracture has a 20 percent chance of dying within six months as a result of the fracture. Osteoporotic-related fragility fractures can also affect just the arm. In fact, each year in the United States, one-quarter of a million adults (250,000) experience bone fractures of the arm from this condition. One-third (34 per cent) of fragility bone fractures of the arm affect the wrist for women. In men, this figure is closer to 17 per cent. But even one osteoporosis-related fracture increases the risk two to four times for another fracture later. This is serious because many people who have a fracture related to osteoporosis spend considerable time in the hospital and in rehabilitation. And this is the information that may concern you the most as a family member. You will want to make sure she has a designated physician or specialist who will supervise her care and follow-up with her. The physician may be a primary care physician, a rheumatologist, or an endocrinologist. Any of these specialists will be familiar with the appropriate medications to prescribe and any contraindications (reasons NOT to prescribe certain drugs). Having one physician supervise all aspects of care and management of this condition is important to prevent future fractures from occurring.


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