Bone fracture can lead to early death, researchers find

·2-min read

Bone fractures can decrease a person's life expectancy, according to researchers assessing the impact of fracture on mortality.

Scientists from the University of Technology in Sydney found a bone fracture was associated with a loss of one to seven years of life, depending on gender, age and bone site.

Research project leader Professor Tuan Nguyen said the risk of premature death was particularly high for patients who suffer a hip fracture, with 30 per cent of patients dying within a year of injury.

The researchers studied more than 1.6 million adults as well as earlier research to develop the concept of "Skeletal Age" as a new measure for assessing the impact of fractures on mortality.

The metric has also been incorporated into an online calculator BONEcheck that measures bone fragility to help doctors and patients better understand the gravity of bone fractures.

"Although a bone fracture can reduce a person's life span, patients who suffer from a fracture don't fully understand this reality," Professor Nguyen said. 

By measuring the average reduction in life expectancy, the Skeletal Age tool aims to provide patients with a clearer understanding of the risks associated with bone fractures to reduce premature death.

Co-lead author Dr Thach Tran said doctor-patient communication of fracture risk currently involves the use of probability.

"A disadvantage of probability is that it can be hard to comprehend, with patients often perceiving a five per cent risk of death following a hip fracture over a five-year period as a 95 per cent chance of surviving a hip fracture," he said.

"The Skeletal Age tool provides an alternative approach to informing patients of their fracture risk.

"For example, instead of informing a 60-year-old woman that her risk of death following a hip fracture is five per cent, she can be informed that her skeletal age is 65."

Professor Nguyen said the development of the Skeletal Age tool was a major breakthrough in the prevention of premature death associated with osteoporosis.

"With this new tool, doctors and patients can work together to reduce the risk of bone fractures and ensure better bone health for all," he said.

The research, 'Skeletal Age' for mapping the impact of fracture on mortality, was published in the scientific journal eLife on Tuesday.